News Law and Policy

Target ‘Screened Out’ Black, Asian, and Women Job Applicants

Dennis Carter

Target Corp. will pay $2.8 million to more than 3,000 job applicants who vied for upper-level management positions, but were "disproportionately screened out" by an application test.

Target Corp. will pay $2.8 million total to more than 3,000 job applicants who vied for upper-level management positions but were “disproportionately screened out” by an application test, the Minneapolis Area Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Monday.

The screened-out groups included Black, Asian, and women job applicants. The EEOC complaint against Target was filed in 2006.

Target’s $2.8 million settlement, which will be disbursed among the applicants, is one of the highest for discriminatory practices in history according to the EEOC, as many large corporations and companies have settled for less than $1 million. Molly Snyder, a spokesperson for Target, told the Star Tribune that the application tests in question are no longer used by the multi-billion dollar corporation.

The application tests given to those applying for management positions at Target didn’t include egregiously discriminatory questions, but proved concerning to EEOC officials because of their overall effect on the application pool.

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“The tests were not sufficiently job-related,” Julie Schmid, acting director of the EEOC in Minneapolis, said in an interview with the Star Tribune. “It’s not something in particular about the contents of the tests. The tests on their face were neutral. Our statistical analysis showed an adverse impact” for Black, Asian, and women job candidates.

Schmid added that Target cooperated throughout the lengthy agency investigation.

The EEOC investigation into Target’s hiring practices also found that one of the corporation’s job assessments, performed by a psychologist, violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The assessment, subsequently stopped by Target, included a medical exam of job applicants that is expressively forbidden by ADA guidelines.

Target officials during the government agency’s investigation agreed to check all job application assessments for discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity.

This isn’t the first time Target has drawn attention for its hiring and employment practices.

Target, like fellow mega-retailer Walmart, has successfully resisted efforts to unionize Target employees. Target in 2011 distributed a video to all new U.S. employees warning that unions were harmful to workers, as reported by Gawker.

A former Target executive spoke to Gawker for a different story about the corporation’s anti-union efforts, which included a detailed system for tracking employees who discussed the prospects of unionization.

“We were told if we caught somebody talking about a union we had ‘phrases to engage,’ I believe [nine] phrases in total, that we could use when if we heard somebody talking about a union,” the former employee said. “We weren’t allowed to ask certain questions but these phrases were a legal way for us to extract information. We were told to never write down this information and only say it directly to the HR manager. They would then be able to fire that individual and all of the individuals they associated with.”

The one-time Target executive said the corporation screens for job applicants who may have been part of a union at another job, or hold union sympathies. “Those applicants were not to be hired,” he said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, after a New York Target store failed to unionize, charged that the corporation had intimidated workers into voting against the formation of a union. The National Labor Relations Board found that Target officials had “interrogated workers about their union activity.”

Target denied wrongdoing. “Target is committed to following all laws and firmly believes we did so throughout this process,” a spokesperson said in a statement, according to Crain’s New York Business. “We believe this was a fair process resulting in a fair election in which our team members rejected unionization.”

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