Target agrees to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination against blacks and Latinos

Target has agreed to a $3.7 million settlement of a lawsuit that alleged the company’s  criminal background check process was biased against thousands of Latinos and African Americans seeking jobs with the retailer.

If the settlement receives court approval, Target will prioritize hiring black and Latino applicants previously denied jobs because they failed to clear a background check the complaint claims discounted them for offenses that were often not relevant to the positions they were applying for. or were committed years before. 

“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,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which brought the complaint with the law firm Outten & Golden, said in a statement. “Overly broad background screenings unfairly limit opportunities for black and Latino applicants due to widespread discrimination at every stage in the criminal justice system.”

The class action complaint, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was brought on behalf of job applicants who’ve been denied positions since May 11, 2006. Attorneys are now seeking preliminary approval of the settlement which was also offered by Target on Thursday. 

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The complaint centered on two plaintiffs, Carnella Times and Erving Smith, who’d been conditionally offered jobs but were then not hired after the company learned that Times had two ten-year-old misdemeanor convictions, and Smith had a felony conviction for a drug charge ten years earlier.

Their attorneys claimed that the screening practice violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars practices that have an unjustified and disproportionate impact on people because of their race or national origin.

Under the settlement, rejected job applicants  can choose to take a payout or apply for an open position at a Target store. If they are qualified for that particular job, they will receive prioritized consideration when it comes to filling it.

Target has also agreed to  consult with experts to review and possibly modify its background check process to ensure the company only disqualifies job seekers whose criminal histories are recent or problematic for the role they are seeking. Additionally, Target will donate $600,000 to groups that help those who have had run-ins with the law find employment.