Target to pay $3.74 million to settle claims that it discriminated against black, Latino job applicants

Target has agreed to pay $3.74 million to settle claims that its background criminal checks discriminated against thousands of black and Latino applicants. The retailer says it will also review the way it screens jobs candidates for hourly positions at its stores.

The class-action lawsuit and settlement, both filed Thursday, stem from a 2006 complaint against the retailer filed on behalf of Carnella Times, who received a job offer from Target to work as an overnight stocker in South Windsor, Conn., that was later rescinded after the company’s background check found that she had two misdemeanor convictions from a decade earlier.

“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’s Legal Defense Fund, which filed the settlement. “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 nonviolent or misdemeanor offense.”

The big-box chain said Thursday that members of the class-action lawsuit will receive priority in its hiring process for job openings at the company’s 1,800 U.S. stores. Applicants who are no longer in the market for a job — because they’re already employed or are retired, for example — will be eligible for a cash award.

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Samuel Spital, director of litigation for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, said Thursday’s settlement was particularly important because so many companies use similar criminal background checks to vet potential hires. Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites, according to the NAACP.

“Because of bias and standardized racism at every stage of the justice system, African Americans and Latinos are convicted at rates that are much higher than whites,” he said. “It’s essential that people who have criminal backgrounds are given a fair chance if these are very old offenses, very minor offenses, or offenses that have nothing to do with the position they are seeking.”

The settlement comes less than three years after the Minneapolis-based retailer paid $2.8 million to settle similar claims of hiring discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission found that three employment assessments used by Target disproportionately screened out applicants for salaried positions based on race and sex.  Target, which maintained that there had been no wrongdoing, said it would review its vetting processes.

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