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Kaplan Higher Education Sued Over Alleged Job Discrimination

Federal officials on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Kaplan Higher Education Corp., a nationwide provider of postsecondary education, for allegedly discriminating against Black job applicants by screening the credit history of potential employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the practice of rejecting job seekers based on their credit history has a discriminatory impact on some racial and ethnic groups. The lawsuit alleges that Kaplan’s practice is not job-related or justified by business necessity.

As a result of this practice dating back to 2008, the company has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit filed by the EEOC’s Cleveland field office in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. It is a violation of Title VII to use hiring practices that have a discriminatory impact because of race and that are not job-related and justified by business necessity.

The EEOC reports that it had attempted to reach a voluntary settlement before filing suit. EEOC seeks injunctive relief in its lawsuit, as well as lost wages and benefits and offers of employment for people who were not hired because of Kaplan Higher Education’s use of job applicants’ credit history.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to eliminate practices that serve as arbitrary barriers to employment because of a job applicant’s race,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and portions of New Jersey and Ohio, in a statement. “Employers need to be mindful that any hiring practice be job-related and not screen out groups of people, even if it does so unintentionally.”

Workplace discrimination charge filings with the federal agency nationwide rose to an unprecedented level of 99,922 during fiscal year 2010, according to the EEOC.

Kaplan spokeswoman Michele Pore said the company has a diverse work force and does not discriminate. She said the company conducts background checks on all potential employees, including checking credit histories of applicants whose duties would include financial matters.

Kaplan Higher Education is a unit of the Washington Post Company.

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