Target has reached a settlement with plaintiffs who sued the retailer, claiming racial and ethnic discrimination in its hiring practices.
The company has agreed to pay $3.74 million and upgrade its hiring practices, although it did not admit to any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit alleged that Target's practice of using criminal background checks served to exclude racial minorities from its workforce. The plaintiffs charged that Target had "imported the racial and ethnic disparities" present in the criminal justice system into its hiring process. The result, the suit charged, was job applicants were rejected for convictions unrelated to the work they sought.
“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 of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “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.”
Ifill said the Target process was overly broad, unfairly limiting opportunities for minority applicants due to widespread discrimination at every stage in the criminal justice system.
"We commend Target for agreeing to this settlement, which will help create economic opportunities for deserving Americans,” Ifill said.
In a statement to the media, a Target spokeswoman said the company no longer asks applicants to list a criminal history but still conducts criminal background checks late in the hiring process.
Plaintiffs sought jobs as stockers
The plaintiffs are black and charged Target didn't hire them for jobs as stockers after the company discovered prior convictions. The Fortune Society, an organization that assists former prisoners reenter society, was also a plaintiff in the suit.
The suit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, gender, and other characteristics.
Under the settlement, which awaits a judge's approval, Target applicants who can show they were denied employment after a criminal background check may share $1.2 million of the settlement, or receive another chance at a job.
Non-profit groups that help people with criminal backgrounds reenter the workforce will receive about $600,000.