"Ban-the-Box" Bill Signed Into Law

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On May 13, 2013, Governor Dayton signed S.F. 523, the so-called "ban-the-box" bill, into law. The law takes effect January 1, 2014, and restricts when employers may inquire into job applicants' criminal background.

Under the law, employers are prohibited from inquiring into, considering, or requiring disclosure of an applicant's criminal history or criminal record until the applicant has been selected for an interview, or, if there is no interview, before a conditional offer of employment has been made to the applicant. The law does not prohibit employers from notifying applicants that law or the employer's policy may disqualify those with a particular criminal background from employment in certain positions. Additionally, employers are not prohibited from declining to hire applicants because of criminal history; rather, the law simply provides when inquiry into criminal history is permissible. Some employers may be exempt to the extent they are required by law to perform criminal history background investigations, or consider criminal history records in hiring employees. The full text of the revised statute can be found here.

When the time for inquiry into criminal history is permissible, employers should inquire about convictions, not arrests, in accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC's) guidance. It is also a good practice not to have blanket prohibitions on hiring applicants with criminal convictions, as such blanket prohibitions may be unlawful.

Given the new law, employers should review job applications and other hiring documents, and make any necessary revisions to ensure that they are not inquiring into applicants' criminal histories or records until the interview stage or until conditional job offers have been made. Employers who violate the law will be subject to penalties as prescribed by the law.