Target plans to settle a $3.7 million lawsuit that claimed the company’s criminal background check process discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos who applied for jobs.
The class action lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of job applicants who’ve been denied jobs the retailer since May 11, 2006.
The lawsuit focuses on two plaintiffs, Carnella Times and Erving Smith, who were conditionally offered employment, but weren’t hired after the company found out that Times had two 10-year-old misdemeanor convictions and Smith had a felony drug conviction from 10 years ago. Their attorneys said that the background screening process went against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits practices that have an unjustified and disproportionate effect on individuals because of their race or national origin.
If the court approves the settlement, Target will make it a priority to hire African-American and Latino applicants who were previously rejected for jobs because they had criminal offenses that weren’t relevant to the positions they were applying to.
“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 job applicants who were previously rejected for jobs at Target have the option of taking a payout or applying for an open position at a store. The retailer has also agreed to talk to experts to review and possibly change its background check process to make sure the company only disqualifies job applicants whose criminal histories are recent or relevant to the position they are seeking.
Jenna Reck, a spokeswoman for Target, said that the company began conducting criminal background checks over 10 years and has revised the process since then. She said the retailer gives job applicants the chance to explain their criminal history and design its “process to treat all applicants fairly while maintaining a safe and secure working and shopping environment for team members and guests. We’re glad to resolve this and move forward.’’