Target to revise background screening process following complaints
Target agreed earlier this month to revise its background screening process in light of discrimination complaints from black and Hispanic applicants seeking jobs with the department store chain.
A lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and two individuals representing a group of job applicants, stated that the retailer's hiring policies "excluded applicants with arrest or irrelevant conviction records from obtaining employment opportunities," a process that also has a "disparate impact on African-Americans and Latinos."
According to the suit, thousands of qualified workers were "systematically" eliminated from employment due to Target's automatic rejection of people convicted of violence, theft, fraud and other offenses that occurred within seven years of their applications. Some of these offenses are minor or too old to impact employee performance, the suit said.
"Criminal background information can be a legitimate tool for screening job applicants, but only when appropriately linked to relevant questions such as how long ago the offense occurred and whether it was a non-violent or misdemeanor offense," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Among other complaints, the suit pointed to racial and ethnic inequalities in the criminal justice system that Target unintentionally brought into its employment policies, "thereby multiplying the negative impact on African-American and Latino job applicants.”
Part of the proposed settlement named in the suit calls for Target to adopt "valid" guidelines for how it uses criminal records in hiring. While the company said it would still use background checks, outside experts would review its procedures and evaluate any recommended changes.
Target also said it would enact a priority hiring process so that certain people who had been turned away could get jobs. Those who are retired or already employed would be eligible for a small portion of an agreed upon $3.74 million settlement fund.
The company, which acknowledged no wrongdoing, has made changes to its screening process in recent years, including the removal of criminal history questions from its job applications. In an email to The New York Times, Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck said the retailer attempted "to giver everyone access to the same opportunities."
In addition, Target said it currently only asks about criminal history in the "final stages" of the interview process.
"We exclude applicants whose criminal histories could pose a risk to our guests," the company said in a statement. Hiring standards are designed to "treat all applicants fairly while maintaining a safe and secure working and shopping environment for team members and guests."
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