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Target makes Minnesota's criminal history law nationwide policy

In May, Governor Dayton signed into law a bill that extends Minnesota’s “Ban the Box” law to private employers. “Ban the Box” was first passed in 2009 but only applied to public employers, but it will now require private employers to eliminate check-boxes about criminal convictions from job applications by the end of the year.

The law protects employees’ rights in two ways:

  • Employers can’t ask about a job applicant’s criminal history or perform a criminal background check until the applicant has been selected for an interview.
  • Employers can’t refuse to hire applicants with criminal records unless an item in their criminal history relates directly to a legitimate job requirement.

Now, Minneapolis-based Target Corp., the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, has decided to voluntarily ban those boxes in its hiring nationwide -- and it’s going even further. The retailer’s vice president says the company is also taking steps to ensure that what criminal background checks the company does perform only include the most serious criminal convictions.

Target credits these policy changes to work with the Minneapolis-based nonprofit the Council on Crime and Justice. In fact, a advocacy groups have been working nationwide to pass “Ban the Box” laws because widespread, blanket policies that disqualify all applicants with criminal convictions has made it virtually impossible for ex-offenders to successfully reintegrate into society, even after being rehabilitated.

Moreover, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other employment law experts have found strong evidence that such policies essentially represent race discrimination. This is because minorities are taken up by our criminal justice system at markedly disproportionate rates even to equally-culpable whites. In other words, minorities are more likely to have criminal records than whites, even when their actual behavior over time was the same.

This results in what employment law calls “disparate treatment” of minorities. When minorities are treated differently in hiring, promotions, or other employment actions for no legitimate business reason, disparate treatment is considered unlawful discrimination.

The Council has been working with Target for two years in an effort to get the company to hire more ex-offenders, and it has worked. At a recent conference on the subject, the retailer announced it plans to establish a more formal relationship with the Council -- beginning with a donation of $100,000.

Kudos to Target for working proactively to promote more equitable hiring and to protect employees’ rights across the nation.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “At Target, criminal history check box ends for job applicants,” Rupa Shenoy, Oct. 25, 2013

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