Keeping up with Ban-the-Box Laws - American Society of Employers - Susan Chance

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Keeping up with Ban-the-Box Laws

ban the boxBack in September of 2018, then Governor Rick Snyder enacted a ban-the-box law that removed questions about criminal history from Michigan’s employment application, and he encouraged private employers to do the same. This came after he signed a bill in March of the same year limiting the ability of city and county governments to enact ban-the-box laws when it comes to private employers. Indiana enacted a similar law the year before.

Even though Michigan enacted the limit on cites and counties, Grand Rapids worked around that by enacting a Human Rights Ordinance. While most locations within the state have legislation that applies to the local government only, the City of Detroit’s law also applies to their vendors.


While there are over 30 states and 150 cities and counties with ban-the-box legislation, a group in Waterloo, Iowa tried to have the local law reversed. The Iowa Association of Business Industry, with member companies numbering more 1,500, filed a lawsuit against the city of Waterloo and its Commission on Human Rights stating that the local law went against the state law which maintains that:


“A city shall not adopt, enforce, or otherwise administer an ordinance, motion, resolution, or amendment providing for any terms or conditions of employment that exceed or conflict with the requirements of federal or state law relating to a minimum or living wage rate, any form of employment leave, hiring practices, employment benefits, scheduling practices, or other terms or conditions of employment.”


The case was dismissed as the court did not find that the local law exceeded the federal or state laws. This case was headed in the opposite way of most ban-the-box laws.


Philadelphia, PA recently amended their law to add restrictions on using credit checks and criminal records in March and April of this year. The exceptions for credit screening, which were already limited, went further in limiting the reasons for credits checks even for law enforcement and financial institutions. The restriction on criminal records now applies to current employees, leased employees, and independent contractors.


New York City has also made amendments to their law which will go into effect on July 28, 2021. The city has tightened the restrictions on the use of arrest and criminal records, and the restrictions apply to current employees as well as to applicants. They have added seven new factors to be considered, including the person’s age at the time of the request. More specifically, if the person was 25 years old our younger at the time the offense occurred, that must be taken into consideration.


As always, it is important to keep abreast of the changes to ban-the-box. It will also be interesting to see if any other groups will try to challenge the laws like the Iowa Association of Business Industry did.




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