A 20-minute demonstration with 200 people outside Target's Minneapolis headquarters Wednesday has prompted HR officials to consider meeting with the advocacy group TakeAction Minnesota regarding its hiring practices. TakeAction officials said a meeting is set for May 29th but Target officials declined to comment about a meeting date.

TakeAction officials want Target to change its hiring practices to allow former convicts to be considered for and hired for certain jobs.

TakeAction alleges that Target's hiring policy refuses to consider any job candidate with a criminal record and that that disproportionately affects people of color.

During Wednesday’s rally, TakeAction had two women speak who had applied for jobs at Target but were turned down. One was convicted of making a verbal threat against a relative nearly a decade ago. Another served time for possessing methamphetamines, but since had a developed a solid career as a social worker. Both women were denied employment at Target because of their criminal record, said TakeAction spokeswoman Greta Bergstrom.

Target officials disagreed. In a statement, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said: "The existence of a criminal record does not disqualify a candidate for employment at Target, unless it indicates an unreasonable risk to the safety and welfare of our guests, our team members or our property."

Snyder added that "Target is committed to following all federal, state and local laws. Target's background check process is carefully designed to ensure that we provide a safe and secure working and shopping experience for our team members and guests while treating all candidates fairly."

Julie Schmid, spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Minneapolis, said that the EEOC recently issued new guidelines to help employers figure out how to properly screen job candidates with criminal records without violating Title VII of the law. Schmid said that employers must consider the age of the victim when the crime occurred; their age now; the relevance of the crime to the job being offered; the candidate's employment record, and any rehab, education and training done since the crime originally occurred.

Such additional guidelines should help employers screen candidates while also providing a means for former convicts to still earn a living, she said.

Schmid declined to comment specifically on the Target and TakeAction dispute. But she added: "I think it's important for both parties to become familiar with our new guidelines on background check policies. Beyond that, it's a little too early for us to say anything."

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