Target to Review Screening Policies in Wake of Claims of Bias

In early April 2018, retail giant Target agreed to revisit its guidelines for how it screens candidates applying to work in its nationwide stores. The move came after numerous complaints claiming that Target discriminates against people of color with criminal records including offenses too old or too inconsequential to affect their performance as employees of the chain.

This move comes at a time in the United States when the unemployment rate is lower than it has been since the late 1990s and early 2000s (currently 4.1%). As a result, employers across the country are hiring candidates they would not have considered before, including those with criminal convictions and, in some cases, those who are currently serving prison sentences.

“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 and director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement.

The agreement to revise its policies came after a series of complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by Carnella Times, who said the company rescinded a job offer after running a background check against her in 2006. It also hopes to resolve a potential class action suit filed in Federal District court in Manhattan by Ms. Times’ lawyers, as well as the Fortune Society, which works to help former prisoners find meaningful work, and another job applicant.

The suit claims that, since African Americans and Hispanics are arrested and convicted at more than double the rate of whites, Target’s hiring process “systematically” eliminates thousands of qualified applicants by requiring the automatic rejection of anyone convicted of offenses including violence, theft, fraud, or drugs in the past seven years. The policy, the suit said, “imported acute racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system into the employment process, thereby multiplying the negative impact on African-American and Latino job applicants.”

The settlement, which is pending a judge’s approval, calls upon Target to adopt “valid” guidelines for how it uses criminal records in its hiring practices, and to finance a settlement fund. In its own defense, a Target spokeswoman said that the company has made significant changes in recent years to its hiring procedures and policies, including its own version of “ban the box,” where the application question asking candidates about prior convictions was removed. The company has stated that it will continue to use background checks, but it will also bring in outside experts to help review how the employment background checks are used and would evaluate any changes.

As part of the proposed settlement, Target has agreed to institute a “priority hiring process” so that certain people who had previously been turned away could get jobs. Others who are retired, already otherwise employed, or who would no longer benefit from a job would be eligible to receive up to $1,000 each from the settlement fund, to which the company has agreed to contribute $3.7 million.

At The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust, we want our clients to rest easy knowing that they have all of the information necessary to make confident and informed hiring decisions.  We are aware that employment laws are constantly evolving, and it is our mission to integrate those changes into our daily practices to ensure that our clients are protected in every way possible.  If you have questions about setting up a screening package for your business, call us today at 404.963.9772 or contact us online!

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.