Private employers in Minnesota should be aware of a “Ban the Box” bill introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate that provides as follows (new language underlined):

364.021 PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT; CONSIDERATION OF CRIMINAL RECORDS.

(a) A public or private employer may not inquire into or consider the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant for employment until the applicant has been selected for an interview by the employer or, if there is not an interview, before a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant.

See HF 690; see also SF 523.  In essence, the bill would prohibit a private employer from running a criminal background check or asking applicants questions about their criminal history in an application until the interview process or, if there is no interview, before a conditional offer of employment is made.  Currently, the prohibition applies only to public employers.

The bills include enforcement provisions that differ in some ways, but both would allow for attorneys’ fees and fines.  The bills are currently in committee.  While they have not yet captured significant media attention, they are being discussed by employers’ groups and Chambers of Commerce.  If passed, this will be an important change for many private employers’ standard hiring procedures; although certainly many already follow this or a similar contingent offer processes to safeguard against possible discrimination claims, as currently recommended by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Takeaway:  Private employers who inquire about applicant’s criminal backgrounds should monitor this proposed “ban the box” legislation.