Target Corp. has agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company’s criminal background check process discriminated against African-American and Latino job applicants.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. claimed that the retailer’s previous policy unfairly disqualified a disproportionate number of applicants of color. As part of the settlement, Target revealed that it would institute a hiring process for class members in the suit to either obtain jobs at any of its approximately 1,800 stores in the country or receive a cash award.
“Target’s background check policy was out of step with best practices and harmful to many qualified applicants who deserved a fair shot at a good job,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the group’s LDF division. “Overly broad background screenings unfairly limit opportunities for black and Latino applicants due to widespread discrimination at every stage in the criminal justice system.”
Filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the class-action complaint centered on two plaintiffs, Carnella Times and Erving Smith, who had received conditional employment offers from the retailer following their interviews. However, those offers were later revoked when the screening process in 2006 found that Times had two misdemeanor conviction, while Smith’s background check in 2014 revealed a drug-related felony. Both of their criminal histories dated back 10 years.
Attorney for the plaintiffs claimed that Target’s policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars practices that have an “unjustified disparate impact” due to a person’s race and national origin.
“I faced many challenges because of a conviction in my early 20s,” Smith said in a statement. “But with perseverance, a great support system and the opportunity to obtain a living wage, I have become a successful tax-paying member of society.”
Should the court approve the settlement, Target, which is one of the largest private retail corporations in the country, will need to revise its background check policies. Only applicants whose criminal history includes job-related violations and convictions that are recent enough to pose a threat to the company will face disqualification.
“As part of our commitment to safety and security, we still believe it is important to consider an individual’s criminal conviction history as part of the overall hiring process,” Target wrote in a statement. “Individuals are given an opportunity to explain their criminal history and provide information about the circumstances, mitigating factors, good conduct and rehabilitation.”
The retailer announced that it will also donate to several nonprofit organizations that help people with criminal records gain employment.
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