On February 1, 2018, Kansas City, Missouri joined the ranks of more than 150 cities and counties to enact a “ban the box” ordinance, aimed at equalizing the chances to gain employment by those previously convicted of a crime. Effective June 9, 2018, the ordinance expands Kansas City’s 2013 ordinance that applied only to city employees. The new ordinance, “Criminal Records in Employment,” found at Section 38-104, applies to most employers employing six or more in Kansas City. It excludes employers that are prohibited by a local, state, or federal law or regulation from considering applicants with a criminal record.

Under the ordinance, employers are banned from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history until after the applicant has been interviewed, i.e., employers can no longer ask about criminal convictions on an employment application. Criminal history is defined in the ordinance to include felony and misdemeanor convictions, guilty and no contest pleas, and records of arrest. After an applicant is interviewed and considered qualified for the position, but before an offer is extended, an employer may ask about his or her criminal history. However, the ordinance prohibits an employer from basing a hiring decision on this factor alone.

The Kansas City, Missouri Human Relations Department (the “Department”) will enforce the ordinance. If the Department finds a violation occurred and conciliation is not reached, the Department can prosecute the employer in municipal court. Penalties for violating the ordinance include a loss of business license for up to 30 days on the first offense and permanently if more than three violations within five years, fines up to $500, and/or imprisonment up to 180 days.

Employers hiring applicants to work in Kansas City, Missouri should review their employment applications to ensure any request for criminal background history is removed. Employers should also review their interview guidelines to confirm applicants are not asked about their criminal backgrounds. Finally, guidelines should be implemented to ensure that the employer is complying with the new ordinance.

It is likely that additional cities, counties, and states will follow suit and enact similar ordinances and laws. Employers not located in Kansas City, Missouri should keep apprised of similar bans where they are located.