As your prospective employees are brushing up on their interview skills, it’s also a good time to ensure your hiring practices and procedures are in order.  A regular review of employment application processes will keep them up-to-date. Scheduling time with hiring managers and Human Resources to freshen up interviewing procedure helps keep the entire organization on track.

Hiring laws and regulations are continually evolving. Employment applications must be consistently updated to reflect current law.  Part of this is defensive — there are few claims easier for a disgruntled rejected applicant to bring than a claim that the application was not in compliance with governing law.  These issues are particularly acute for the retail and hospitality industries, which experience high turnover and utilize seasonal employees.

This year — numerous states have adopted legislation barring prospective employers from including the question “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony?” on employment applications. These laws are commonly referred to as “ban the box” initiatives.  According to the National Law Employment Project (NELP), fourteen states have adopted ban the box legislation.  A complete list can be found on the NELP website. The initiatives reflect a growing belief in rehabilitation, a sense that some felony convictions reflect circumstance more than character, and unwillingness to sentence former felons to a life of unemployment.

For example, New Jersey’s “ban the box” law took effect in February of this year. The new law states that Garden State employers with fifteen or more workers cannot inquire about a job applicant’s criminal history until completion of an initial interview.  This imposes two important requirements.  First, the application can’t contain the question.  Second, the question should not be asked during an initial interview.  Employers thus need not only update their forms, but make sure that they conduct interviews in conformity with the new law.

Massachusetts’ Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform changed the rules in Massachusetts effective in 2010. In 2012, employers were given access to a new online tool through which they could request CORI forms for potential applicants.  As in other states with changing laws, the Commonwealth’s CORI laws require careful navigation during the hiring process.  Again, not only applications warrant review; employers must take care to comply with governing law and regulations during the interview process.

As employers navigate the many changing employment regulations concerning the hiring process, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website is a good place to start.