Individuals seeking employment with the Target Corporation will soon notice a change in the company’s job applications.

The Minneapolis-based company recently announced that they will no longer question applicants about their criminal history. The company said it expects to remove the question from applications nationwide in the coming year.

According to the National Employment Law Project, the decision was based on a new Minnesota law and the efforts of grassroots organizations that have been pressuring the company to change their standards.

“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,” Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement. “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.”

Applications for public sector jobs in the state have been barred from asking applicants about their criminal history. In May, Governor Mark Dayton increased the reach of the law by requiring private companies to follow the rule as well.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human rights, employers will still have the authority and legal obligation to turn away criminals with certain records, including sexual offenses.

According to the National Employment Law Project, more than 10 states and 50 cities have all fallen in line with the “Ban the Box” movement, requiring that employers eliminate the box all applicnants are asked to check if they have served time in prison.

“I think this is an excellent choice and for the organization itself, this speaks volumes as to how they are considering the people they want to hire,” said Walter Lomax, project director for the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative.

“It is challenging whether it’s someone returning from a long-term or short-term incarceration. A criminal record is a hold-back for folks who have found themselves involved with the justice system,” he added. “We’re not saying that at some point an employee shouldn’t learn something about their employee’s criminal background. What we are saying is that they need to at least be given an opportunity for an interview. Then they can explain the circumstances of their incarceration.”

Lomax has taken up many causes related to citizens returning to the populace from incarceration. In addition to efforts to allow ex-convicts to serve on trial juries, Lomax has dealt with many returning citizens and their difficulties finding employment.

“I had one case where a man filled out 10 applications and every one asked a criminal record. He wasn’t called back for a single one of them,” he said. “The reality is that he has to check that box because if he doesn’t and they find out, he will be fired. It will be assumed that he is untruthful. It definitely adds a level of anxiety.”

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer