BUSINESS
10/29/2013 06:24 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2013

Target To Drop Criminal Background Questions In Job Applications

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Target plans to stop asking prospective employees about their criminal records in initial job applications at all of its U.S. stores, a company spokesperson confirmed to The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

The Minneapolis-based company had been facing pressure to do so from grassroots advocacy group TakeAction Minnesota. Target nevertheless reserved the right to ask about criminal backgrounds after the completion of an applicant's first interview.

“Target is an industry leader in developing a nuanced criminal background check process that gives qualified applicants with a criminal history a second chance while maintaining the safety of our guests, team members and protecting our property,” Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder wrote in an emailed statement.

The announcement from the country's second-largest retailer comes just months after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed “Ban the Box” legislation, which will next year make it illegal for the state's employers to ask about a job applicant's criminal history until he or she has been selected for an interview.

The "Ban the Box" movement began gaining momentum last year when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified that a potential employee should not be turned down solely because of a prior conviction. Ten states and more than 50 U.S. cities have passed "Ban the Box" legislation, according to the National Employment Law Project, a low-wage worker advocacy group.

In a statement, NELP executive director Christine Owens urged similar companies around the nation to follow Target's lead.

“Target is finally doing the right thing by reforming its hiring policies so that qualified job applicants aren’t automatically screened out simply because they have an arrest or conviction from the past,” Owens said. “Other large retailers around the nation need to follow suit, because their hiring policies send a strong message about whether they are committed to the communities that support their business.”

In addition to banning the box, Target is looking to boost hiring of former convicts, and plans to donate $100,00 to the Minnesota-based Council on Crime and Justice, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

CCJ vice president Mark Haase applauded the retailer in a statement.

“Not only is Target complying with the new law here, they are doing the right thing around the country by giving people the opportunity to be judged for their skills and qualifications first,” Haase said. “We commend Target for taking this important step in fair hiring and are excited about our partnership with them to provide opportunities to our community members.”

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