The NAACP and TakeAction Minnesota accused Target Corp. of unfair hiring practices in 10 formal complaints filed Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The NAACP and the community group allege the retailer's hiring practices discriminate against applicants with criminal records. In a news conference Wednesday in Minneapolis, the groups accused Target of denying people with criminal records job interviews, even when the alleged crime was old, expunged or irrelevant to the prospective job. NAACP and TakeAction members filed 10 formal complaints with the EEOC and referenced an additional 150 cases documented over eight months.
Target officials denied any wrongdoing and said they had met previously with TakeAction Minnesota to talk about its hiring practices.
"We explained that Target's criminal background check process is carefully designed to ensure that we provide a safe and secure working and shopping environment for our team members and guests while treating all candidates fairly," said Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder in a statement. "The existence of a criminal record does not disqualify a candidate for employment at Target, unless it indicates an unreasonable risk to the safety and welfare of our guests, our team members or our property."
State Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, said he hopes for a resolution with Target in six to nine months. Right now, the problem "is pretty widespread," he said.
EEOC spokeswoman Julie Schmid would not confirm or deny whether her office received the complaints. She declined to discuss the allegations.
But Schmid said the EEOC clarified the law last year so corporations could confidently recruit workers and still comply with labor laws. The policy clarification came on the heels of Pepsi Beverages Co. being fined $3.13 million last year by the EEOC for refusing to interview or hire black workers with past arrests or convictions between 2006 and 2010.
Schmid said employers cannot have blanket policies that bar applicants with criminal records from consideration. Such practices have been found to disproportionately affect African-Americans, she said.
Instead, employers must review each job applicant's situation individually, consider how long ago the arrest or conviction occurred, the nature of the incident and if it is relevant to the job, she said.
During Wednesday's news conference, counselor and Minnetonka resident Kissy Mason said she applied for and was offered a cashier job at Target in April. But the offer was rescinded two days later when Mason was told she was being denied a job because she had a criminal record.
Mason said that in 2004 someone threatened her children and she responded by threatening them with bodily harm. She was convicted of making threats and given probation. Her record was expunged in 2011.
She was surprised when Target rescinded its job offer. "It's my favorite store," she said.
Jeff Martin, president of the NAACP St. Paul branch, said Target is an important part of the Twin Cities community and should do its part to help reduce Minnesota's racial unemployment gap. Since the recession, Minnesota's African-American unemployment swelled to 13.8 percent, compared with 5.8 percent overall.
The complaints submitted Wednesday are "the tip of the iceberg of a massive structural problem at Target," Martin said. "This is an opportunity for Target to lead. We are asking Target to adopt the EEOC's [rules]."
The flap over Target's hiring has hit just as the Minneapolis-based retailer is dodging a controversy about wages paid to janitors who clean its stores and offices.
Last week, Target's contractor, Diversified Maintenance System, settled a $675,000 class-action lawsuit with Twin Cities janitors who were made to clean metro Target stores seven days a week without overtime pay. Separately contracted janitors and security guards are threatening to strike Sunday unless labor talks improve.
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