Target to Pay $3.7 Million in Settlement Over Job-Screening Policies

Retailer says it has since revised its hiring practices, removing the criminal-history question from its employment application

Target Corp. has agreed to pay more than $3.7 million and overhaul job-screening guidelines for hourly workers to resolve a civil-rights class-action complaint that alleged the company’s policies regarding criminal-background checks were too broad and discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which was filed in Manhattan federal court, Target is to give priority hiring rights to African-Americans and Latinos who applied for jobs starting around May 11, 2006, but were ultimately denied employment based on a pre-employment background check. Those who have since retired or otherwise wouldn’t benefit from the program would be eligible for a cash award.

The actual number of applicants who would be covered by the settlement has yet to be determined. According to the proposed settlement, more than 41,000 African-American and Latino applicants were denied jobs based on the criminal-history screening process from May 2008 to December 2016.

The complaint was filed in 2006 in Manhattan federal court on behalf of Carnella Times and Erving Smith, who had received conditional job offers that were revoked following the criminal-background screening process, and the Fortune Society, a New York City-based advocacy organization that provides support for ex-prisoners. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and law firm Outten & Golden LLP represented the plaintiffs.

“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, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president and director-counsel, in a statement.