April 9, 2018 – Last Thursday, Target Corporation agree to settle a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of African American and Latino job applicants who sought employment with the company since 2006. The suit alleged that Target’s use of criminal background checks during the application process disproportionately impacted these job applicants nationwide.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and two individuals on behalf of job applicants, cited Target’s use of overly broad and outdated hiring policies to screen applicants. For example, these policies required the automatic rejection of applicants convicted of misdemeanors, the crimes of which were irrelevant to the jobs to which they were applying. In addition, applications flagged for further review were sent to Target’s human resources department, which used subjective criteria to accept or deny applications. Such policies unduly impact African Americans and Latinos who are convicted at a higher rate than whites.
Target agreed to pay $3.7 million as part of the settlement. Class members will be eligible for priority interviewing and hiring for current open positions or a financial award of up to $1,000. Further, the company agreed to make changes to its hiring practices, including, reviewing the appeal process that allows job candidates the opportunity to show rehabilitation and identifying convictions that are not job related and should not disqualify applicants from particular jobs.
Job Applicants Are Protected from Discriminatory Hiring Practices
The Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), prohibit employment practices that discriminate on the basis of a “protected status,” such as race and national origin. These laws prohibit not only practices stemming from animus toward a protected status (called “disparate treatment”), but also include neutral policies that disproportionately affect individuals of a certain protected status (called “disparate impact”).
Criminal record exclusions often have a disproportionate effect of excluding employees and applicants of certain racial and national origin groups. Normally, an employer will have to show that its process of excluding applicants or employees with certain criminal records is “job related and consistent with business necessity.” More information about criminal background checks and related federal equal employment opportunity laws may be found on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website here.
The MHRA prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring an applicant to provide information about the individual’s race, religion, national origin, public assistance, sex, color, marital status, sexual orientation, familial status, age, creed or disability. This prohibition may intersect with criminal background reports as employers may require applicants to provide information (such as date of birth) in connection with a pre-employment criminal background check. It is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ position that such an inquiry violates the MHRA.
Wanta Thome PLC is committed to protecting the rights of all individuals who have been treated unfairly by the illegal practices of their employers. If you believe your employment rights have been violated, contact our Minnesota employment lawyers at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.