Minnesota Bans Criminal History “Checkbox” on Employment Applications

Minnesota employers are no longer be able to ask employees about their criminal record on initial job applications. The “Ban the Box” movement throughout the country is calling on employers to wait for an interview before inquiring about a criminal past. Advocates for the law believe that ex-offenders will have more employment opportunities if they are not immediately eliminated in the first stage of their job search.

Minnesota is one of 10 states and 50 cities to pass laws that require private companies to eliminate the criminal record checkbox. The potentially incriminating criminal record inquiry has been used nationwide to weed-out individuals with any criminal record, without detailed information about the charges, the offense, and whether or not there was a conviction. The new mandate applies to private companies; however, Minnesota passed a similar provision in 2009 that applies to public employees working in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

People with a criminal record may have more job opportunities while employers will refrain from making quick and potentially unfounded decisions about an applicant. Target, the third-largest employer in the state of Minnesota, was involved with the “Ban the Box” movement and expanded its process nationwide to comply with the Minnesota law.

While the removal of the box does not remove the possibility of a background check or drug test, it does give ex-offenders a chance to get through to the second or third round of the hiring process. Unlike protected groups based on age, sex, race, religion, or pregnancy, employers can use a criminal record when making a determination about whether to hire an employee.

The “Ban the Box” movement gives ex-offenders an initial opportunity to reintegrate into their communities and provide for their families. It gives the offender the possibility to present qualifications and abilities without being forced to provide criminal history up front. Though “Ban the Box” could prevent initial discrimination based on criminal record, individuals can still be targets of discrimination, including racial discrimination, which does give rise to legal action.

Private employers maintain the right to use background checks and access criminal records; however, they must also follow laws to protect the rights of employees, including the guidelines set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Any business owner conducting an independent credit check and criminal background report must get an applicant’s permission in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers and consumers throughout Minnesota. If you have suffered hiring discrimination, we want to hear from you.