Excerpted from The Journal Times story by Adam Rogan

“Why didn’t you tell us about the felony on your record?” the manager of a Target angrily asked Bryan Strong over the phone.

“I don’t have a felony on my record,” Strong replied.

That is the conversation that led to Strong being part of a class action lawsuit addressing discriminatory hiring practices. His situation illustrated the problem, although he was only a small part of the case.

The conversation was when Strong realized Target had dug really deep in its background check. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last time, that Strong says corporations digging into his history have hurt his ability to get a job. This phone call occurred in the summer of 2016. Strong had been hired to work at the Target department store in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. But about two weeks after he was told he had been hired, the Racine native still had not been given a start date. He called the store, and that’s when the manager inaccurately accused him of being a felon and not disclosing it.

When Strong was 17, he was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit bill at the now-closed Pick ‘n Save on Rapids Drive across from Horlick High School. Using a counterfeit bill can be prosecuted as a felony, but all Strong had to do was pay a fine and the offense was expunged. Even though the case doesn’t remain on his publicly available online record, Target found out about that offense through its background checks.

“That’s got to be illegal,” Strong thought to himself after the Target manager hung up on him. But Strong found there wasn’t much he could do about it at the time.

According to Christopher McNerney, an associate in the national law firm Outten & Golden, “on the federal level, there are no protections that specifically say a private employer cannot deny someone based on criminal history.” However, if a company is going to deny someone a job, they cannot do it discriminatorily.

A multimillion-dollar civil case (Times v. Target Corp.) that McNerney started working on in 2018 alleged that Target was acting discriminatorily because it was filtering out so many applicants due to criminal background.

The basis for that argument was that, in the American legal system, people of color have been continuously prosecuted, investigated, tried and convicted at higher rates than the average. As such, the plaintiffs argued, Target’s screening process was overbroad and discriminatory since it was so consistently screening out people of color for jobs for which they were qualified.

You can read the complete story here.