Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Target Corporation has agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle a class action lawsuit to resolve allegations its overly broad and outdated criminal background check policy discriminated against African-American and Latino applicants, according to a press release from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF).

As part of the settlement with LDF and the law firm of Outten & Golden LLP on behalf of a class of job applicants, Target will institute a hiring process for class members to obtain jobs at any of approximately 1,800 U.S. retail stores. Class members who would not benefit from a Target job are eligible for a cash award.

Target has agreed to review its current background check policies so that only applicants whose criminal record is job related and recent enough to pose a realistic threat faces disqualification. Target will also contribute money to assist not-for-profit organizations that provide re-entry support to ex-offenders.

“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,” LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill stated in the press release.

Plaintiffs Carnella Times and Erving Smith claimed that Target’s criminal background check policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment practices that have an unjustified disparate impact on the basis of, among other things, race and national origin.

Plaintiffs also alleged that Target’s criminal background check policy penalized applicants who did not fully disclose arrests or convictions, barred candidates from employment for unnecessarily long periods following a conviction, and lacked a system for considering rehabilitation since the time of conviction.

The original complaint claimed that a disproportionate number of otherwise qualified African-American and Latino applicants were automatically disqualified from employment opportunities under Target’s criminal background check policy, sometimes even for two decade-old misdemeanor convictions.

“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,” added Ifill. “We commend Target for agreeing to this settlement, which will help create economic opportunities for deserving Americans.”

In April 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – issued “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The EEOC Guidance “recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”

Best Practices Guide for Criminal Background Check Policy

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen worked with group of national civil and workers’ rights organizations to develop “Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring” to help employers avoid costly lawsuits. Download the report here.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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