What is “Ban the Box”? Do I Have to Do Anything About This?

Last session the Minnesota legislature passed a bill labeled “Ban the Box” which, beginning on January 1, 2014, will restrict a company’s inquiries into a prospective employees’ criminal history – e.g., no more question on the application asking the applicant to “check if you have been convicted of a felony in the past ____ years.” 

The new law, however, will not entirely prohibit prospective employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history.  Rather, companies will need to wait until either after an offer to interview the candidate has been made or after an offer of employment has been extended before asking about prior criminal history.  So, while the new law does not prohibit this common practice, it does delay the inquiry and alter what may be most employers’ hiring procedures. 

The law additionally provides for some immunity from liability stemming from a company’s decision to hire an employee with a criminal history.  While this offers some assurance to companies, the protections are not absolute and employers should still consider the nature of any criminal history versus the nature and requirements for the offered position.  Businesses that are required under other laws to perform criminal background checks on applicants, however, are exempted from the prohibitions under this new law.


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