The 10 Biggest Target Lawsuits in Company History
Target Corp. is an American mass-market retailer owning stores in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The company has more than 400,000 employees, fulfilling its signature tagline “Expect More. Pay Less” since 1994. As of 2021, it generated $106 billion in revenue thanks to large-scale food and general merchandise discount offers that it runs. While the company is known as the largest discount retailer in the country, it’s been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, starting with lawsuits. The lawsuits range from class-action to individual lawsuits. They include consumer cyber-attacks, prejudice against employees, and false merchandise labeling.
10. The US EEOC Vs. Target (Minnesota)- Target pays $45,000 to EOCC following a complaint from a deaf applicant
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) is a federal body preventing employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their gender, race, age, political affiliations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other aspects like disabilities. One incident involving Target in Minneapolis that captured the commission’s interest was about a deaf applicant.
According to EEOC, Target considered recruiting the applicant after verifying that he was qualified for the job. The company tried returning his calls twice but never noticed he was deaf until he used a Video Relay Service (VRS). The applicant returned Target’s call four times, but that’s when he realized they had declined his request. The EEOC filed the lawsuit on September 21, 2018, at the US District of California, San Francisco Division, resulting in $45,000 in compensatory and lost wages. The settlement warns corporations to discriminate against people based on the above variables.
9. The People Vs. Target- Target’s failure to prevent fraudsters from tampering with gift cards lands them in legal trouble- Unresolved
Once in a while, Target offers Apple iTunes gift cards to customers. But in 2021, 30 people filed a class-action lawsuit against them. They alleged that Target tampered with gift cards, making them lose their money. The plaintiffs took the case to the US District Court of Minneapolis. Ideally, Target should have been aware that fraudsters would pose as customers and remove the security tape from the gift cards. Afterward, they would key in the secret 16-digit activation code to empty the customer’s funds once they load some money on the gift cards.
The plaintiffs blamed Target for failing to take reasonable and adequate measures to shield customers from scammers, but they didn’t. Also, they’re suing the company for not warning them about the possibility of scammers tampering with their gift cards. Even worse, Target refused to refund their balances on the gift cards and money. One of the plaintiffs claims that people have lost more than $5 million.
8. Minneapolis Target employees Vs. Target- ETLs sue Target for unpaid overtime for non-management work
The Federal Labor Standards Act maintains that employees should work hours stipulated in their contracts. Working overtime should be compensated with extra pay. However, Target breached the law by making Executive Team Leaders (ETL) do work hourly employees are supposed to do. That includes stocking shelves and ushering customers out, translating to 50 hours or more per week. The company is also in the spotlight for relieving hourly employees of their duties to cut costs.
New Haven, Conn’s attorney, Andrew Davis, brought this case to court after receiving complaints from Target’s Minneapolis-based managers. They alleged that they worked overtime doing non-managerial work but never paid for the extra work. The company’s spokesperson, Jenna Reck, responded in an email, “We’re aware of the lawsuit and confident that our ETLs are appropriately classified as exempt employees, given their management responsibilities.” From this case, it’s clear Target misused their top-level employees, and it was only a matter of time before they went on a strike. Therefore, they should stick to the work agreement to prevent future lawsuits of this nature.
7. Customer & Banks in 21 States and Washington DC Vs. Target- Target is in legal trouble due to a credit card stealing from its stores in 2012- Unresolved
Target, once again, was in the spotlight after customers complained of hackers stealing their data. Customers and small banks filed 68 class-action lawsuits in Washington DC and 21 states, purporting that Target did little to encrypt their data. Tina Wolfson, a lawyer at Ahdoot & Wolfson P.C., brought the case to attention after getting a heads-up from the Wall Street Journal. For companies with physical addresses like Target, the probability of getting sued for credit card fraud is high and can take many years to overcome.
Such companies avoid liability by compelling customers to seek private dispute resolution. However, making customers sign the agreement before purchasing something at the register is impractical. Small banks like Alabama State Employees Credit Union also didn’t let Target off the hook, following the costs they incurred due to the breach. Such institutions often receive overwhelming requests from clients wanting to close their accounts due to fraud. In such cases, Target should refund the banks after their clients demand reimbursements.
6. Black and Latino job applicants Vs. Target- Target agrees to pay the marginalized job applicants $3.74 million in settlement for claims against racial discrimination during job recruitment
According to Washington Post, Afro-American and Latina applicants can now smile after filing a class-action lawsuit against Target for hiding behind criminal checks to prevent them from getting recruited. It’s believed that incarcerated Blacks are more than five times whites. That puts any Black or Latina applicant in a compromising situation when applying for jobs at Target.
In an interview with Washington Post, Target’s spokeswoman admitted that her company stopped enquiring about applicants’ criminal histories during job recruitments. It seems they realized that a person’s criminal history doesn’t discredit their commitment, performance at interviews, and qualifications. The director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Samuel Spital, commented that these two groups are likely judged unfairly, despite having misdemeanors and old offenses. Fortunately, Target agreed to pay $3.74 million in cash to applicants no longer seeking jobs because they’re employed elsewhere or are retired.
5. California Vs. Target- Customers’ complaints about inconsistent prices on mobile apps and stores attracted a class-action lawsuit amounting to $5 million
The last thing anyone wants is to notice the discrepancies in pricing between apps and stores. Customers often noticed that the stores overcharged them despite the advertisement showing otherwise. So, in February 2022, San Diego County District Attorney’s office filed a class-action lawsuit against Target, hoping they would minimize such cases. According to US News, the plaintiff argued that despite Target using software called “geofencing,” it didn’t show the customers which specific stores adhered to the prices displayed on the app.
The software works by helping businesses know customers’ locations so they can inform them about the prices at their stores. The lawsuit restricts Target from hiking prices by showing the clients where to find the said item at a price displayed on the app. The settlement requires Target’s stores in California to audit and accurately price products for the subsequent seven years. In a separate lawsuit in 2018, the San Diego court ordered Target to pay California state $7.4 million for violating laws governing hazardous waste disposal.
4. National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Vs. Target- Implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 results in a $6 million settlement from Target
Before the ADA Act of 1990, blind people found it daunting to access data from Target’s website or buy anything without third-party help. In 2005, NFB tried negotiating with Target to offer a website that was interface-friendly to the blind. During the negotiations, NFB alleged that one blind user clicked the image of a Dyson vacuum cleaner, but the voice command said different serial numbers. NFB also claimed that Target’s website lacked image maps, preventing the blind from accessing what they wanted.
The negotiations went on till 2006 but became unsuccessful, prompting them to file a motion against them on February 7, 2006. In August 2008, Target was ordered to pay $6 million in settlement to the California class for damages. That didn’t include attorney’s fees, but Target paid. The settlement resulted in a pact between Target and NFB, designating the former as its Strategic Nonvisual Access Partner in 2016.
3. People Vs. Target- Deceptively marketed store cards make Target lose $8.2 million in lawsuit settlements
Fostering marketing campaigns through ‘attractive’ prices of store cards is one thing until users realize they were duped. Target was compelled to pay users who incurred more than one returned payment fee from June 29, 2012, to December 2, 2019, $8.2 million on the condition that they weren’t waived or refunded. On three separate occasions, James Walter, Michelle Dixon, and Charles Powell sued Target for knowingly misinterpreting policies governing its debit card, wooing them into buying stuff they weren’t sure of getting.
The storyline revolves around Target saying its debit card is similar to the conventional debit card. The idea was to allegedly lure the users into thinking insufficient funds won’t affect the current ones in the account. The cardholders admitted that insufficient funds wouldn’t affect the charged amounts should they fail to go through. Ironically, the customers had to incur insufficient fund fees, and Target never informed them. Fortunately, Target accepted the blame, paying $8.2 million to settle the dispute. $5 million would go to the users and $3.2 million to the debt reduction benefits. The attorneys spearheading the received 30% of the total in legal fees.
2. People Vs. Target- Target makes headlines in a class-action lawsuit exposing it for improper disposal of hazardous wastes and materials, attracting $22.5 million in civil penalties and recovery costs
A large corporation like Target knows better than to put humans and animals at risk of coming into contact with hazardous wastes, but that wasn’t the case. A class-action lawsuit was filed against them by the Ventura County District Attorney for Consumer and Environmental Unit, discovering that 240 of its stores released toxic waste from drains and store compactors. Investigations also revealed that each Target store released one-two ton of toxic waste annually. The company was ordered to pay $22.5 million for the damages. Part of the settlement’s requirement was for Target to source an audit service on waste-handling practices from a credible and independent firm. Part of the money ($1,195,250) was awarded to the lead consumer and environmental unit complainant- Ventura County.
1. Target pays for the 2013 data breach lawsuit, making it lose $153.9 million
A federal Minnesota judge, Paul A. Magnuson, will go down in history for saving millions of Target’s users from a data breach in 2013. He sued the largest retailer on behalf of 40 million ‘consumer class’ customers whose data was breached by hackers. By 2014, Target faced 33 lawsuits across 18 districts for the same reason. In March 2015, Target accepted liability, paying $10 million in the settlement. After back-and-forth arguments by Target against PSCA and the affected plaintiffs, the judge ruled that all plaintiffs whose credit and debit card information got hacked on December 19, 2013, deserved to be vindicated.
Five banks also joined in on the lawsuit, claiming they lost customers due to the breach. In August 2015, Target agreed to compensate customers using Visa-branded cards with $67 million. Banks issuing MasterCard-branded cards were also to receive $19 million. In May 2017, Target pays $18.5 million to end the multi-state investigation, Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, and Connecticut’s Attorneys General presided over the class-action lawsuit.
The 2013 breach of data by Target totaled $153.9 million due to the following settlements:
- $19 million to Mastercard in April 2015
- $10 million to affected users in March 2015
- $67 million to Visa in August 2015
- $39.4 million to banks and credit unions in December 2015
- $18.5 million to the District of Columbia and 47 states in May 2017
According to Hashedout, after footing legal fees and the above lawsuit settlements, Target claims to have spent $292 million. As is expected of such breaches, Target claimed it wasn’t the main “villain.” Instead, it blamed third-party vendors for failing to secure their customers’ data. After noticing that the breach escalated to 80 civil lawsuits, it upgraded to more secure chip-and-pin cards. That means a third party can’t access your money using your name, card number, and address alone. One of the lessons Target learned from this infamous heist is disaster preparedness. The company should’ve put a strategy to restore customer trust and loyalty should the worst occur. Also, a proactive approach like an MSP can help reduce the chances of future security breaches.