Target Hits the Bulls Eye

When Target says, “Expect More, Pay Less,” who knew the “more” would include an effort to uphold Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Yet, that’s exactly what the Minneapolis-based company did when it decided to remove questions about criminal history from its job applications throughout the country. Today, more than 90% of employers conduct criminal background checks on some or all job applicants (up from 51% in 1996), according to a 2010 SHRM survey. This ramped-up use of background checks adds yet another major hurdle to the job prospects of a vast-and unfortunately- growing segment of U.S. workers. An estimated 65 million people in the U.S.-or one in four adults-have an arrest or conviction record that can show up on a routine criminal background check for employment. The problem is especially severe for African Americans and Latinos, who are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system and have historically higher rates of unemployment. Each year, millions of people with criminal records, a newly manufactured underclass of citizenship in the U.S., face a maze of policies and regulations that keep them from rebuilding their lives and becoming functioning members of society. By tackling one of the most important Civil Rights issues of our time, Target is giving formerly incarcerated job seekers an opportunity to fairly compete for employment.

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