A growing number of state and local governments have “banned the box” by prohibiting inquiry into a job applicant’s criminal history at the initial application stage.  This summer saw a number of additional state and local proposals in this regard, some of which became law and others of which were rejected.   

Connecticut House Bill 6875 would have prevented employers from: (1) requiring individuals to disclose on an employment application any convictions for a nonviolent misdemeanor that occurred more than five years prior to the date of application; and (2) requiring individuals to disclose any criminal history until the employer has determined whether the individual is otherwise qualified for the position.  The bill failed in April and has since been tabled for the calendar in the Connecticut House. 

The New York City Fair Chance Act, enacted in June and scheduled to take effect October 27, 2015, prohibits private employers within the city from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal history.  The Act instead requires that criminal background inquiries be deferred until the time of a job offer.  However, employers that are required by law to conduct background checks and to exclude people with specific convictions may still do so under the Act.  

Oregon House Bill 3025 also was enacted in June and will take effect on January 1, 2016.  Under the statute, an employer in Oregon may not require an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction on an employment application or at any time prior to an initial interview.  If the employer does not conduct an interview, then the employer may not require the applicant to disclose a criminal conviction prior to making a conditional offer of employment.  

More than 100 cities and counties and 17 states have adopted similar rules, but only Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, and cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, have passed laws that govern how non-public employers address the issue of an applicant’s criminal background.  This legislation adds to a growing patchwork of regulations surrounding employment background screenings that include a criminal history check. 

Troutman Sanders has extensive experience in counseling companies on background screening compliance, including in “ban the box” jurisdictions.