July 22, 2016 Client Alert

Pre-Employment Criminal Background Inquiries: Time to Update Your Applications

The “ban the box” movement is growing, and as a result, your employment application may no longer be compliant. With a growing flurry of municipal- and state-specific restrictions on what employers can and cannot ask of applicants in employment applications regarding their criminal backgrounds, it is essential for employers to dust off their employment applications and review for legal compliance in this area.

For multi-jurisdictional employers, attention must be paid to the laws of those states and municipalities in which you operate and candidates for employment reside. Some states and municipalities completely restrict an employer’s ability to ask about criminal backgrounds at the application stage, some permit a narrow inquiry, and some state laws do not address the issue at all. In addition, as more thoroughly discussed in a prior alert, given the EEOC’s aggressive stance on an employer’s consideration of criminal background check information in the hiring process, it is important to carefully craft and tailor your inquiries regarding the same.

If your employment application has not been reviewed in the last six months to year and a half, you have missed updates to the laws of the following states and municipalities, for example: Connecticut; Oregon; Montgomery County, MD; Prince George’s County, MD; Columbia, MO; New York, NY; and Austin, TX. With potential penalties from $300 per violation (Connecticut) and $1,000 per violation (Oregon), discovering that your application is not up-to-date may be a hard—and expensive—lesson to learn. 

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