Target Corp. said Thursday it is working to fix shortcomings related to how hazardous products are disposed in a bid to ensure employees are better informed about the procedures.
The move follows the California Department of Justice’s announcement a $7.4 million settlement had been reached to resolve health and safety violations.
The state DOJ and 23 other government entities — including the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the Los Angeles city attorney’s office — sued the Minneapolis-based corporation for the second time in a decade after evidence surfaced stores throughout California failed to adhere to terms of a settlement concluded in 2011.
“We’ve made significant progress in the way we handle hazardous waste following our 2011 settlement with the state,” a Target statement said. “We have enhanced team member training, store operations and auditing processes, and we continue work to improve our operations to best manage disposing of items like batteries, hairspray and laundry detergent that require additional special care under California laws.
“Target will pay $7.4 million, which includes supplemental investments in our business operations (and) also will remind team members on best practices for handling environmentally sensitive items, commit to regular third-party audits and upgrade to clear trash bags in our stores for easier visual inspections.”
Prosecutors negotiated the most recent settlement in Alameda County Superior Court, and Judge Ioana Petrou certified the final terms Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, an investigation between 2012 and 2016 revealed employees in Target stores improperly disposed of hazardous waste, including compact fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, aerosol cans, syringes and pharmaceuticals.
Random searches of the stores’ trash receptacles also turned up evidence that 175 items containing customers’ confidential medical information had been discarded intact, instead of shredded, according to the lawsuit.
The dumping of hazardous waste into rubbish cans — the contents of which ended up in landfills — and the negligent disposal of customers’ records constituted numerous violations of California Health & Safety and Civil codes, prosecutors said.
Most all of the offenses were uncovered during compliance checks arising from Target’s March 2011 settlement with the DOJ and 20 county district attorney’s offices, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego.
That $22.5 million suit determined the retailer had repeatedly committed environmental violations between 2001 and 2009. The terms of that civil action required Target to establish policies that ensured employees properly disposed of toxic materials.
Under the terms of the new settlement, Target has agreed to pay $3.2 million in civil penalties; spend $300,000 to fund “supplemental environmental projects” initiated by companies other than Target; pay $900,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs related to the investigation; conduct three inspections annually at its California-based outlets to confirm compliance with regulations; randomly audit a dozen facilities and report findings to the DOJ and local prosecutors; and create a “trash receptacle inspection and management program.”
Along with along with the cities and counties of Los Angeles and San Diego, the counties of Orange, Riverside, Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Humboldt, Kings, Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare, Ventura and Yolo were part to the action.
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