The Star Tribune reported last week on recent complaints to the EEOC alleging Target Corporation discriminates against applicants with criminal records. The NAACP and TakeAction Minnesota accused Target of unfair hiring practices in 10 formal complaints filed last Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The two groups are accusing Target of denying people with criminal records job interviews, “even when the alleged crime was old, expunged, or irrelevant to the prospective job.” Target officials deny any wrongdoing. Target spokeswoman, Molly Snyder, issued this statement:
“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. 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 called the problem “pretty widespread.”
In our view, this story requires a bit more wait and see. The use of criminal records in employment is a hot topic right now and the EEOC’s recent updated guidance on the use of criminal records places stringent responsibilities on employers to ensure their fair use. It will take more than mere accusations to resolve these complaints.
A Reminder to Employers about the EEOC’s Guidance
Back in April 2012, the EEOC issued its updated enforcement guidelines on employers’ use of criminal records (arrest and conviction records) in the employment screening process. This story offers a good reminder for employers to keep in mind the EEOC’s best practices, which include:
- Requiring an individualized assessment for individuals excluded by the results of the criminal records check;
- Developing a narrowly tailored written policy and procedures for screening for criminal records;
- Identifying essential job requirements and the actual circumstances under which the jobs are performed;
- Determining the specific offenses that may demonstrate unfitness for performing specific jobs;
- Refraining from inquiring about convictions on job applications;
- Limiting the criminal records inquiry to convictions that would be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity;
- Keeping information about the criminal records of applicants and employees confidential (only using it for the purposes for which it was intended);
- Training managers, hiring officials, and decision-makers on how to implement the policy and procedures consistent with Title VII.
The EEOC has made it clear, through both its latest guidance and its defined strategic priorities, that employers’ hiring and employment screening practices will be on its radar. If your organization hasn’t taken a close hard look at its policies and procedures lately, now is the time. EEOC investigation activity is increasing and the last thing you want to do is find your organization in the headlines for the wrong reasons.