Criminal Records

Criminal Records in the Employment Screening Process

In the job application process, few factors can hold an otherwise qualified candidate back like a criminal record. If you have experienced this problem, you are not alone. Approximately a quarter of all Americans have an arrest or conviction on their record. Fortunately, an employer’s use of criminal records in the employment screening process is not unlimited, and several laws are in place to protect applicants on the federal and state levels.

State Law Protections in Minnesota

Perhaps the most important law protecting Minnesota job applicants with criminal records is the “Ban the Box” law, which took effect in 2014. The law prohibits employers from asking questions relating to an applicant’s criminal history on the initial employment application. Gone are the days of checking a box if you have ever been convicted of a crime.

Ban the Box also prohibits employers from ordering a criminal background check on applicants during the application process.

Once an applicant has been invited to interview for a position, however, the employer is allowed to ask about criminal history, order a background check, or both. If there is no interview, the prohibition is lifted at the time the employer makes a conditional offer.

Although Ban the Box does not take criminal records out of the equation completely, it delays employers’ consideration of them, focusing attention on applicants’ job-related qualities and accomplishments at the initial stages of employment screening.

Federal Anti-discrimination Laws

Although there are no federal statutes specifically directed at job applicants with criminal records, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers some limited protection.

As you may know from reading previous posts on this blog, Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in the hiring process on the basis of an applicant belonging to a protected class. When an employer has a blanket policy with regard to using arrest and conviction records in the hiring process, Title VII may be implicated.

Arrest and conviction rates in the US are disproportionately high for Latinos and African Americans. Therefore, if a company rejects all applicants with a criminal record as a rule, there is likely to be a more significant adverse impact on applicants belonging to these two minority groups. Such a policy is likely to run afoul of Title VII.

To avoid anti-discrimination claims from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers who use criminal records in the employment screening process must use a more detailed approach. They must consider the specific crime committed, how it relates to the job being applied to, and how much time has passed since the arrest or conviction.

St. Paul Employment Law Attorneys

Although job applicants with criminal records remain at a disadvantage, the laws described above offer some semblance of protection for those looking to make a fresh start. It is often difficult, however, for a job-seeker to understand and enforce their rights. This is where the employment attorneys at Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh, PLLP, come in. We stay up to date on all state and federal employment laws and routinely counsel and represent clients in a variety of employment-related matters.

For more information, contact us online or call 651-227-0611.

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