retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Target said yesterday that it will revise the guidelines that it uses to screen potential employees, a move, the New York Times writes, made in response to complaints that its “hiring process ‘systematically’ eliminated thousands of qualified applicants regardless of their potential to be good employees by requiring the automatic rejection of people convicted of offenses that could include violence, theft, fraud or drugs within the seven years of their applications.”

Concerns about Target’s policies focused on whether they discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants “with criminal records that can include offenses too minor or old to affect their performance as employees.”

The Times says that the Target move “addresses a series of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Carnella Times, who said Target declined to hire her after running a background check in 2006.

“It also seeks to resolve a potential class action filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Thursday by the legal defense fund and other lawyers representing Ms. Times; the Fortune Society, which works on behalf of former prisoners; and another job applicant. The settlement requires a judge’s approval.”

The Washington Post says that Target “has agreed to pay $3.74 million to settle claims that its background criminal checks discriminated against thousands of black and Latino applicants,” and said that “members of the class-action lawsuit will receive priority in its hiring process for job openings at the company’s 1,800 U.S. stores. Applicants who are no longer in the market for a job — because they’re already employed or are retired, for example — will be eligible for a cash award.”

The suit argued that “acute racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system” mean t that Target’s policies multiplied “the negative impact on African-American and Latino job applicants.”

Target, which is not conceding that it did anything wrong, has pledged “to work with experts to adopt ‘valid’ guidelines for how it uses criminal records in hiring, and to finance a modest settlement fund. The company said it would still use background checks, but would bring in outside experts to review how the checks are used and would evaluate any recommended changes.”
KC's View:
Seems to me that it is perfectly legitimate for a company to want to know if potential employees have a history of violence, theft, fraud or drugs … but clearly, companies are going to have to be more nuanced and informed about how they analyze this information.