MILWAUKEE - Target Corp. will pay $510,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit alleging that the Minneapolis-based discount chain refused to hire four African-Americans because of their race.

The consent decree signed Monday by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa ends a six-year legal battle between Target and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involving stores in the Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., areas.

But the decree is not a finding on the merits of the case for or against either party.

The EEOC filed suit against Target in 2002, saying the retailer had denied management jobs to Kalisha White, Ralpheal Edgeston Brown, Cherise Brown Easley and James Daniels Jr., all college graduates. The EEOC said Target denied job interviews to the three women and did not hire Daniels, who scored higher on a test than the white person hired for the position he sought.

The EEOC further accused Target of not keeping proper records of job applicants. The EEOC sought damages for the individuals in the suit as well as for other black applicants who the commission says were denied employment because of their race since Jan. 1, 2000.

Randa had dismissed the case, but the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his decision and ruled that it should go to trial. The appeals court found in 2006 that the EEOC had presented sufficient evidence that Target refused to hire the four applicants for entry-level management positions because of their race. The court also ruled that a trial was required on the record-keeping issue.

John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago district office, said in a statement that the appeals court decision is noteworthy because it ruled that the trial court could admit into evidence expert testimony that the employer might have racially identified the applicants as black on the basis of their names or accents heard during telephone conversations.