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Retailer bans criminal records questions on job applications

Nationwide retailer Target has announced that they will no longer ask applicants whether or not they have a criminal history as a part of their routine job application form. The company will still check criminal histories, but will wait until later in the process.

The intention behind the change is not to discourage employer from checking an applications criminal background, since their history may be quite relevant to whether or not they are suited for the job. Instead it is meant to allow those with arrests or convictions on their records to prove themselves to employers without that information first disqualifying them, so if they are the best person for a job and have an unrelated criminal history, their chances of getting an offer may increase.

Interestingly, this change to Target’s policy comes from a state law in the state where the retailer has its headquarters but Target has voluntarily expanded the policy to all locations nationwide, even though most states do not prohibit the question on applications. At the same time, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidelines stating that an arrest alone (without a conviction) is not enough to justify disqualifying someone from a job in any state.

This is one area of employment law that can be difficult to understand for those who have not experienced it, since it might seem as though it wouldn’t make a difference to see a criminal background later in the process instead of right away. However, with 65 million people in the United States who have criminal records, this could have a big impact on the population as a whole.

Source: New York Times, “Target Bans the Box,” Brent Staples, Oct. 29, 2013.

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