Target Corp. reached a $7.4 million settlement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, the state Department of Justice and 23 other entities to resolve litigation over alleged environmental violations and improper handling of sensitive information, it was announced Wednesday.
Prosecutors negotiated the settlement in Alameda County Superior Court, and Judge Ioana Petrou certified the final terms. It is the second agreement reached with the Minneapolis-based retail giant in the last decade to resolve a civil complaint stemming from environmental breaches in California.
According to prosecutors, an investigation between 2012 and 2016 revealed that employees in Target stores throughout the state had 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’ medical records constituted numerous violations of the California Health & Safety and Civil codes, prosecutors said.
Most all of the offenses were uncovered during compliance checks arising from Target’s 2011 settlement with the state attorney general 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 injunctive terms in the civil action stipulated that Target was to establish policies that ensured employees properly disposed of toxic materials.
After that settlement was reached, the retailer issued a statement saying the company has a “comprehensive program to ensure our handling, storage, disposal and documentation of hazardous materials complies with California law, and we train our store teams regularly as part of this program. We will continue to devote substantial resources in order to remain a responsible corporate steward of the environment.”
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 Department of Justice and local prosecutors; and create a “trash receptacle inspection and management program.”
Along with Riverside County, the counties of Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Humboldt, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare, Ventura and Yolo were parties to the action, along with the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego.