Minnesota Drops the Box on Criminal Record Screenings

In the past year, Minnesota law amendments made major changes in how employers conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. According to a law put into effect on January 1, 2014 employers cannot run criminal background checks on employees prior to:

  • the job candidate being selected for an interview.
  • the job candidate receiving a conditional offer of employment without an interview.

Additionally, employers cannot ask job applicants any questions or require “check the box” options about criminal history on pre-employment materials. However, employers can still inform prospective employees that certain types of criminal records will disqualify them from employment, and any positions that require a background check by law will remain subject to such preliminary screenings.

The goal of the new law is to aid in the rehabilitation of applicants with criminal records. The law alleviates automatic disqualification from applications, leaving prospective employees with criminal records the opportunity to explain discrepancies background after proving their qualifications.

Not only must employers in Minnesota relinquish their ability to rely on criminal background checks to reduce job applicant pools, but they must also adjust their hiring practices to mirror the new law. Any violations result in fines.

This law is a bold move for Minnesota because it sends the very clear message that individuals with a criminal record deserve the opportunity to obtain jobs for which they are qualified, or at the very least explain their past behavior in the hope of bettering their career prospects. Minnesota government also hopes that the law will shrink disparities in employment demographics.

The new law is referred to as “Ban the Box,” a clear metaphor for looking outside of the idea that someone deserves a job opportunity solely based on his or her criminal record. Keeping in mind that Minnesota employers aren’t forced to hire anyone they do not wish to employ, Ban the Box does appear to be a well-intentioned tool that gives qualified job applicants with criminal records (that may not affect their work environment at all) the boost they need to rehabilitate their lives.

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