Minnesota’s recently enacted “ban-the-box” legislation will take effect on January 1, 2014.  Here’s what employers need to know about the law:

What the Law Requires:  The law provides that most public and private employers “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.”  S.F. No. 523 (to be codified at Minn. Stat. § 364.021).

How the Law is Enforced:  The statute authorizes the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to impose fines for violations of the law.  There is no private right of action for individuals to initiate lawsuits.

Are There Any Exceptions?  The law includes an exception for “employers who have a statutory duty to conduct a criminal history background check or otherwise take into consideration a potential employee’s criminal history during the hiring process.”  For instance, the law does not apply to school districts or the Department of Corrections.  In addition, the law allows law enforcement agencies, fire protection agencies, and certain licensing agencies to inquire about certain kinds of offenses.  The law is also clear that it does not supersede any legal requirements to conduct criminal history background checks for certain kinds of employment.

What Employers Need To Do:  Employers need to begin complying with the ban-the-box law on January 1, 2014.  The first thing that employers need to do is to make sure that any paper or online employment applications do not ask any questions about an applicant’s criminal history.  In addition, because most background checks include information about an applicant’s criminal history, most employers will need to wait until an applicant has been selected for an interview or offered conditional employment before conducting a background check.