Houston Forward Times

05 December 2012 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney, Associate Editor

Blackballed - One Man’s Fight against Employment Discrimination

Stephen Manley, 36, is not your typical Black male.

Not only does Manley have a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, he also carries a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis on Information Technology from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Manley, a happily married man with five children, has been committed to doing what he has to do to provide for his family and not being a statistic.

Who wouldn’t want to consider hiring a dedicated, sharp young man like that right? Wrong!

One of the things about Manley that has stood in the way of accomplishing his goal has been his past.

See Manley, like many other African-American males in this country, has a misdemeanor criminal record that has impacted his ability to become gainfully employed in spite of his academic success and dedication to seek out employment.

It is that pursuit of gainful employment, and the roadblocks that Manley has faced, that have created a firestorm within the federal courts of Houston.

Most shocking though, is that Manley has been taking on high-profile lawyers from major firms by representing himself in the court system and does not even have a law degree.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

In September 2010, Manley states that he began looking for a job and sent out his resume, to which he received two interview requests.   According to Manley, Invesco Ltd., an independent investment management company that is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and has branch offices in 20 countries, hired Matrix Resources and Technical Prosource Staffing, two IT staffing firms, to seek out candidates to fill positions that Invesco, Ltd. was hiring for.

After seeing his resume posted on Monster.com, Manley states that Matrix Resources was the first staffing firm to call him for an interview for a position with Invesco.   Manley states that he went on the interview, filled out an application, signed a waiver to give them permission to conduct a criminal background search and then never heard a word back form Matrix Resources.

Manley states that about a week later, Technical Prosource Staffing sent him an email asking him to interview for the same Invesco position.   he did with Matrix Resources.   After testing, Manley states that a Technical Prosource employee asked him about his criminal history and shortly thereafter, he found out that Technical Prosource did not refer him to Invesco because of his criminal history.

To heighten Manley’s speculation that employment discrimination was to blame, he points out a provision in Technical Prosource Staffing and Invesco’s contracts that say the following;

e. No employee or subcontractor assigned to perform Services pursuant to a Work Order will have a criminal record at the time of or during such assignment;

Manley states that Technical Prosource Staffing, like Matrix Resources, was hired by Invesco to find qualified candidates for the jobs it has open and that he fit the criteria.  

MANLEY SUES FOR DISCRIMINATION

Manley has been in a two-year legal battle with three companies; Prosource, Invesco and Matrix. Manley alleges that these three companies discriminated against him and other African-Americans that have sought out employment with them.  

His suit alleges that these employers violated his civil rights by looking further back into his past than the law allows, and not adhering to the Texas Business Commerce Code Section 20.05.

According to the Texas Business Commerce Code Section 20.05, it reads:

§ 20.05. REPORTING OF INFORMATION PROHIBITED. (a) Except

as provided by Subsection (b), a consumer reporting agency may not

furnish a consumer report containing information related to:

 

(4) a record of arrest, indictment, or conviction of a

crime in which the date of disposition, release, or parole predates

the consumer report by more than seven years;

Manley has argued that the companies breached his civil rights by discriminating against him through their employment hiring practices.

DISCRIMINATION UNCOVERED

Manley states that during the course of litigating this matter, he paid for and received an expert report that proves that White applicants “who said no” to the question concerning their criminal history on their employment applications often got a job.  

An expert report is a study written by one or more experts that states findings and offers opinions.   In law, expert reports are generated by expert witnesses offering their opinions on points of controversy in a legal case, and state facts, discuss details, explain reasoning, and justify the experts’ conclusions and opinions.   An expert witness, by virtue of their education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject matter beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon their specialized opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of their expertise.

“I don’t believe anyone took me seriously at first when they found out that I was representing myself,” said Manley. “It wasn’t until I presented the court with an expert report that they knew I was serious and that the findings from the expert report were even more serious.”

The report also shows a tremendous disparity between White applicants and African-American applicants. The report shows that African-Americans “who said no” to the question concerning their criminal history on their employment applications have been denied employment and that they are deemed a liar because they did not answer the question truthfully and failed to disclose their criminal history.

He is arguing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Right Act of 1991, which codified Griggs v. Duke Power Co., is the same thing that these companies have done, which shows discrimination of the disparate impact type.

Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971), was a court case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on December 14, 1970. It concerned employment discrimination and the adverse impact theory and was decided on March 8, 1971. It is generally considered the first case of its type.

The Supreme Court ruled that the company’s employment requirements did not pertain to applicants’ ability to perform the job, and so was discriminating against African-American employees, even though the company had not intended it to do so.

MADE MISTAKES

Manley admits that he made mistakes as a young man, but doesn’t believe those mistakes should be used against him for the rest of his life.

“What I am going through is a struggle that is worth fighting,” said Manley. “I have to fight for my equal rights and my chance to be an equal citizen again, because I paid my debt to society and I don’t owe anybody else for the mistake I made."

Manley was a 17 year old teenager when he was arrested on a misdemeanor for taking $300 out of his cash drawer while working at a retail store around Christmas time.   His parents were divorced and family issues forced him to live with a relative. Manley, admitted to taking the money because he was broke, but doesn’t make any excuses for the mistake he made.

“Not having any stability in my life did impact me,” said Manley. “But there is no excuse for the mistake I made. I made it and I paid my dues.”

Manley received one year probation for that incident.

At 21, Manley found himself on the end of another issue, when police were called out to an altercation with his girlfriend at the time. An argument became physical and he was arrested for misdemeanor assault.   Manley dealt with the misdemeanor and after doing so, he and that girlfriend got married and are still married to this day.

“I made some really dumb decisions as a youngster, but I learned from them and I was motivated to do what I needed to do to be successful and take care of my family,” said Manley.   “My wife and I realized that we were young and hot-headed, and that we needed to focus on being more responsible and mature.”

It was after that incident that Manley decided to go back to school and pursue his Masters degree.

“I am not looking for a handout, I want to work,” said Manley. “I made some very dumb decisions when I was young, but I learned from them and did what I was told I needed to do to be successful in this country."

CHANGE IS NEEDED

Manley is disappointed that his commitment to better his life is being derailed because of his youthful indiscretions, but won’t let that stop him.

He took it upon himself to put his Legal Studies degree to work and represent himself.   He is still fighting these companies in the court of law, with the hopes that their employment policies and practices, that he believes exclude persons with a criminal history, changes.   He also believes that this impacts African-Americans more harshly than any other group.  

“The employment practices of Prosource and Invesco are equivalent to the notorious “no blacks allowed sign” which swung from the doors of many businesses during Jim Crow’s era,” says Manley. “Invesco and Prosource have redesigned the sign; they have hung it in their contracts as well; aligning their action based upon the clear and candid language of the sign as evidenced by their employment practices.”

Manley believes that the lasting effects of such a policy has and will continue to have a devastating impact on qualified African-American applicants who are able to perform the job duties of the position they seek, even though they may have been incarcerated before.   He believes that these employment policies and practices contribute to the nation’s recidivism rate, in that individuals who have paid their price to society can’t properly rebuild their lives once they have become a part of the system.  

STARTLING STATISTICS

National statistics show that on release from prison 67.5% of offenders will return to some facet of the criminal justice system. However, if the inmate who is released has a high school education, his risk of returning to prison is reduced to 24%; if the inmate has two years of college, the recidivism rate drops to 10%; at four years of college the rate drops to 5.6%; and post graduate degree holders had a 0% recidivism rate.

48% of recidivists were African American, property and drug offenses make up over 60% combined of recidivist crimes, annually parole violators make up 25% of prison admissions.

The United States Department of Justice reported that in 2007, for every 100,000 Black men in the United States, 4,618 were incarcerated, while for White and Hispanic males, the total incarcerated for every 100,000 was 773 and 1,747, respectively.

The Justice Policy Institute reported that during the last two decades of the twentieth century the black male prison population increased at a rate four times higher than the increase in black male college students.

Minority groups or disproportionately arrested and convicted and are labeled with misdemeanor or felonies of some kind. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009.

According to the 2010 census of the US Census Bureau, Blacks comprised 13.6% of the US population and were incarcerated at the rate of 4,347 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same race and gender. White males were incarcerated at the rate of 678 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. Hispanic males were incarcerated at the rate of 1,755 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents

African-American girls and women are becoming a fast growing population in our prisons and jails nation-wide. There were 115,779 women incarcerated in either state or federal prisons at midyear 2008. B lack women account for 32.6% of incarcerated women and Hispanic women represent 16% of this population at midyear 2008.

WORD FOR THE WISE

Manley wants people to take proactive measures to protect their civil rights.  

“They are so comfortable with discarding Black folks as if we are career criminals that it is disheartening,” says Manley. “If you are White and have committed a crime in the past, then they say that you just made some youthful indiscretions. If you are Black, they say that you will be that way forever. It’s just not true, and I am a living witness.”

Manley wants people to understand that this is a civil rights issue and wants them to take action and begin to stand up for this issue because it could impact anyone in their family or even them.

“This is employment discrimination and it affects our future and our livelihoods,” says Manley.   “I want politicians to speak up and get involved and help lift this load off of people’s backs, walking around indefinitely in a state of distress, facing a dilemma of whether they should return to a life of crime or work a dead end job. I want an equal opportunity and I want folks to fight for me, a man that wants to do right.”

Manley is committed to fighting, even if he fights the fight alone. He is still arguing his case in federal court and as a result of his expert report findings; he plans to go even further.

“After two years of fighting this, I had to come out and share this with the world.   I have hard proof that it is employment discrimination. I have the white applicants with criminal records that were hired.”

In his export report findings, Manley claims that they uncovered many applicants who were White that had the same background that he had, received jobs, while Blacks were denied employment.

Manley says he plans to fight until the end, not just for himself, but for those who have and continue to be impacted by employment discrimination, but don’t know what to do.  

“You are not alone,” says Manley. “Don’t go to jail by doing something criminal that you will regret later. If you believe you have been a victim, file a discrimination lawsuit like I have and don’t be afraid.”

This is sure to be an interesting case to follow and the Houston Forward Times will continue to follow it and keep our readers updated.