Groups press Target to consider job applicants with criminal backgrounds

Two Twin Cities social-justice groups are pressing Target to fairly consider job applicants with criminal backgrounds.

TakeAction Minnesota and the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP have filed 10 complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The groups allege Target is discriminating against qualified candidates, including people of color who were arrested for minor offenses several years ago.

The EEOC office in Minneapolis would not comment on whether it received the complaints. But acting director Julie Schmid said federal law prohibits employers from having a blanket policy that weeds out applicants with criminal records. She said employers need to show there is a business necessity for denying someone a job based on his or her criminal history.

"Just because you had a drug possession charge when you were in your 20s in college, does that mean you shouldn't have a job as a bank teller later? No," Schmid said.

The EEOC is generally interested in making sure employers do not discriminate based on criminal history because such practices could have a disproportionate effect on African Americans and Latinos, Schmid said. The Twin Cities has one of the largest unemployment gaps between whites and blacks in the country.

Target, however, says it does not disqualify a candidate for employment based on one's criminal background, "unless it indicates an unreasonable risk to the safety and welfare of our guests, our team members or our property," company spokesman Amy Reilly said.

She added that Target has been in conversation with TakeAction about the retailer's hiring practices and the background check process.

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