Effective June 5, 2014, public employers and their vendors will be subject to a new "Ban-the-Box" ordinance passed by the Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Council and signed into law last month by Mayor Greg Ballard.    

The ordinance makes it unlawful for city and county agencies and their contractors (with 10 or more full-time employees) to inquire on employment applications about an applicant's prior criminal history. In addition, covered employers cannot inquire into or require disclosure of any criminal convictions during the application process through the conclusion of a first interview. Covered employers who do not conduct any interviews are prohibited from making any inquiries or gathering any information regarding an applicant's criminal convictions. 

The ordinance does not affect background checks required by state or federal law. If an applicant voluntarily discloses any information regarding criminal convictions at an interview, the employer may discuss those convictions.

Originally, the Indianapolis ordinance included language that would cover any employer receiving economic development incentives from the city, but that language was removed from the final version. Legislators may seek to reintroduce that or other language broadening coverage in future legislation or amendments.

Indianapolis' new ordinance is the most recent example of a growing body of regulation at various levels of government regulating employers' ability to request and consider background checks on applicants and current employees. For example, Indiana has enacted significant revisions to its "Second Chance Law" over the last few years, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released revised guidance in 2012 and again in 2014 on how employers should analyze criminal background checks.

Because these laws can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, employers should review their employee screening policies on a regular basis and be watchful for additional developments at the local, state, and national level.