Target settled a racial discrimination suit over its background check hiring process. The lawsuit highlights the unfair bias against Black job seekers with a criminal record, compared to Whites in the same situation.
The retailer agreed on Thursday to pay $3.7 million in the class-action suit, which was brought on behalf of thousands of Black and Latino job applicants who’ve been denied positions at Target since May 2006, USA Today reported. Target routinely rejected job seekers for offenses that were irrelevant to the positions that applicants sought, the suit alleged.
“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, said in a statement.
Having a criminal record is a major barrier to obtaining a job for the approximately 600,000 people released from incarceration each year, according to the Center For American Progress. That’s especially true for the disproportionate number of Black former inmates who try to rebuild their lives. African-American men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of White men. And when formerly incarcerated Black and White men seek jobs, Black men are 50 percent less likely to get a call back from a potential employer compared to White men.
Target had conditionally offered the two primary plaintiffs, Carnella Times and Erving Smith, jobs. However, the company decided not to hire them because Times had two misdemeanor convictions, and Smith had a felony drug charge that was 10 years when he applied.
The company’s hiring process violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the attorneys for the plaintiffs argued. What’s more, Target’s screening practice was “overly broad” and “unfairly limited opportunities for Black and Latino applicants” because of the discriminatory criminal justice system, Ifill added.
In addition to the payment, Target also agreed to modify its background check process and to donate $600,000 to organizations that assist former inmates.