Minnesota recently passed “ban the box” legislation, which will restrict private employers’ ability to ask about applicants’ criminal backgrounds on employment applications. Signed by the Governor on May 15, 2013 and effective January 1, 2014, the new law makes it unlawful for most private employers to inquire into or consider the disclosure of criminal record information until (a) the applicant has been selected for an interview; or (b) if an interview is not conducted, a conditional offer of employment has been extended to the applicant. The new law prohibits questions regarding an applicant’s criminal history on an employment application.

The new law includes several narrow exceptions for employers that have a statutory duty to conduct a criminal history background investigation during the hiring process. However, this exception will not apply to most private employers because they are not required to conduct criminal history background investigations. The full list of the law’s exceptions can be found here.

Public employers in Minnesota are already prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history at the beginning of the application process. With this new law, Minnesota has now aligned the duties on most private employers with those imposed on its public employers.

Although the law is not effective until January 1, 2014, some employers may want to update their employment applications well in advance of the deadline in order to ensure that legally compliant applications are being used in all hiring decisions. 

Charles E. McDonald, III is a shareholder in the Greenville office of Ogletree Deakins.

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Background Checks

Background checks are a trending topic for employers because of the tidal wave of class action lawsuits alleging technical violations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act as well as the proliferation of state and local background check laws (including those arising from the Ban the Box movement).

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