U.S. employers have seen an influx in new ban-the-box laws over the past two years, as the trend appears to be continuing into 2020. There are currently fourteen statewide ban-the-box laws and dozens of local ordinances in effect across the country as well as a new federal law that will take effect later next year.
Maryland was the most recent state to enact a ban-the-box law, which wasn’t met without hesitation by some state officials. The law was actually vetoed by the state’s governor but took effect on February 29th of this year after the governor’s veto was overridden by state legislature. Maryland’s law applies to employers in the state with over fifteen employees and bars employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history before the first interview is conducted. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against anyone for claiming the employer has violated the law. The state’s Labor Commissioner will be responsible for enforcing the new law and has the authority to impose financial penalties of up to $300 on offending employers.
US States with Ban-the-Box Laws for Private Employers
Additionally, the U.S. Fair Chance Act was signed by President Trump in 2019 and is set to take effect in December of 2021. Once effective, the act will prohibit federal agencies and contractors from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history before making a conditional offer of employment. Of course, there are exceptions to both Maryland’s law and the Fair Chance Act, such as circumstances where employers are required by federal or state law to make such inquiries.
A few states are working on proposing laws of their own. Mississippi’s senate is set to vote on a new ban-the-box law this year, and Connecticut lawmakers are considering adding a clean-slate law to their books in addition to the state’s ban-the-box law that was enacted in 2017. Clean-slate laws are designed to cause certain criminal history information to be automatically erased by a court system after certain criteria are met (e.g., five years have passed without the individual being convicted of a subsequent offense).
As long as this movement in favor of fair chance hiring laws keeps momentum, employers in any state would be well advised to keep an eye on potential changes in the laws for any state they operate in so that they are adequately prepared to comply.
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