Employers Will Have to Adjust if 'Ban the Box' Bill Becomes Law

Updated: 04/22/2013 11:18 PM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz

Job applicants are accustomed to answering questions about their pasts. But a bill that has now passed the Minnesota State Senate could make sure the question about your criminal history doesn't come up until the interview phase.
The bill is nicknamed "Ban the Box" because it bans the box asking about criminal history.

Small business owner and former Minnesota House Republican Phil Krinkie says the question about criminal history helps narrow the field right off the bat.

"We have our service technicians and installers entering into people's homes and the employees honesty, the employees background is critical," said Krinkie, who owns The Snelling Company, a heating, cooling and electrical business.

Krinkie says delaying the question until later in the hiring process could be a burden, costing time and money.

"You have 20 applicants, or even 10. To start interviewing those people and then finding out whoops, this person has something in their background," Krinkie said.

If "Ban the Box" becomes law, Joe Schmitt, attorney with Nilan Johnson Lewis' labor and employment group, says employers will have to adjust.

"They are going to have to alter their applications for employment, they are going to have to alter their interview process, they are going to have to train their recruiters and their HR personnel," Schmitt said.

According to The Council on Crime and Justice, one in five Americans has a criminal background.

"There are so many people who are being perpetually punished for a decision that they made so long ago and they've paid their debt to society," said bill author Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis.

Champion says his bill offers a second chance to Minnesotans who have already served their time.

"Hopefully at the time that they disclose it, an employer has already had an opportunity to see their growth and see their skills and qualifications and then that could evolve into a rich discussion as to what happened in the past and how they've changed," Champion said.

Employers who repeatedly violate proposed the law could face $500 in fines. If the houses passes the bill and Governor Dayton signs it, Minnesota would be the third state to "Ban the Box" for both state and private employers. At least 43 cities or counties around the country have passed "Ban the Box" legislation.

Minnesota was the first state to pass such a law for state employers in 2009.