Target will revamp its guidelines for screening and hiring employees after accusations the company’s hiring policies discriminate against black and Hispanic applicants. According to a report from the New York Times, the accusations against Target state the company was disqualifying candidates for all manner of criminal transgressions—including old, minor, or “irrelevant” convictions.
Target’s agreement to revise its policies resolves an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint filed by a candidate who applied for a job with the company in 2006. The candidate, Ms. Carnella Times, claimed she applied for a job as an overnight stocker and received a conditional offer of employment. Times had a criminal record that included two misdemeanor convictions from 10 years prior. She claims she disclosed these convictions to Target interviewers before her conditional employment offer but still had the offer rescinded after the convictions showed up on her background check. A second candidate named in the same suit had a similar story.
Throughout the lawsuit, Target has been criticized for conducting criminal background checks on entry-level and hourly positions and for disqualifying candidates for old or outdated convictions.
Target is within its rights as a company to conduct background checks for low-level positions. At backgroundchecks.com, we always encourage our clients to run background checks for all positions. Everyone a business hires—from full-timers down to hourly workers or even volunteers—is a face for the business. Failing to conduct a background check on any of these people could result in a negligent hiring lawsuit if something goes wrong.
Target’s error was not following EEOC guidance to consider convictions based on their relevance and timeliness. Convictions that don’t have anything to do with the job at hand (especially misdemeanor offenses) are shaky grounds for disqualifying applicants. Misdemeanor convictions from more than seven years ago are even shakier grounds for disqualification, especially since many criminal background checks only go back seven years. Here, Target fell into a practice that could be deemed to have a disproportionate impact on minorities since statistically black and Hispanic citizens face arrests and convictions at higher rates than white citizens.
Target has not admitted wrongdoing and has highlighted some of the things it has done to promote equal employment opportunity—such as banning the box on job applications company-wide. However, the company has agreed to “work with experts to adopt ‘valid’ guidelines” for its use of background checks and criminal history in hiring. Target has also agreed to set up a “modest” fund to settle the EEOC claim brought by two former candidates.
The company claimed it will continue to use background checks to screen its candidates but will make changes to avoid bias or disproportionate impact in hiring. Such changes may include alterations to the list of offenses Target views as grounds for disqualification from employment consideration. The company will also likely revamp its policy concerning older convictions.