A new year is quickly approaching and so is the implementation of a new law restricting circumstances when Minnesota public and private employers can request information about a job applicant’s arrests and criminal convictions. This is happening across the country in a number of other states and is being called “ban the box,” in reference to the box on many job application forms which ask about an applicant’s criminal record. 

Under the new law scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014, Minnesota public and private employers may not inquire, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history until after the applicant has been selected for a job interview, or if no interview is being conducted, then before a conditional offer of employment has been made.

This is not new to Minnesota public employers, as a similar restriction went into effect for them in 2009. Note: The new law does not impact employers who have some other statutory duty to conduct criminal background checks which are job-related such as police, fire, school bus drivers, etc…

This is however new to private employers, who may become subject to review and penalties from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Penalties are set out in the new statute and increase as time passes. Public employers who are the subject of complaints or grievances in violation of the statute will be reviewed under Chapter 14, the Administrative Procedures Act.

Prior to January 1, 2014, all Minnesota employers should review their job applications and hiring procedures, to insure they are ready to comply with the new law. This may require removal of questions on job applications concerning criminal history, unless of course the position is covered by a statutory exception. It may be permissible to consider criminal history later in the process, if an applicant has been selected for an interview or a conditional offer has been made to the applicant.