New Employment Policies

Helping Those with Criminal Records Overcome an Employment Hiring Bias

One large employer has adopted new policies affecting the impact of criminal records in its employment process.

Recent legislative efforts in our state to help those with criminal records secure gainful employment have resulted in new laws and the modification of others. Efforts have been made to increase the number of offenses that qualify for expunction (See A Criminal Conviction May Qualify for Expunction / Expungement), to decrease the amount of time that it takes for an expungement petition to be reviewed by state agencies (See Expunction Process Delays – The Good News) and to restrict the circumstances under which a potential employer can inquire about a criminal record that has been expunged (See New Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Rules for Expunctions).

Legislators in other states likewise have attempted to help those with criminal records find employment, and at least one of these efforts has ramifications for potential employees in our state. Minnesota, like a growing number of other states and municipalities, had restricted inquiry into one’s criminal record until the applicant completed the initial application for employment. The idea behind the restriction is to allow an applicant to demonstrate his or her qualifications before being automatically disqualified for a criminal record.

Recently, the Minnesota legislature extended this restriction cover private employers as well. After January 1, 2014 all employers in the state will have to wait until an applicant has been selected for an interview or has been extended a conditional offer of employment before asking about the applicant’s criminal record or performing a criminal background check.

Minneapolis based Target Corporation, Employmentwill fall under these new restrictions. Rather than maintaining different hiring practices in different states, Target decided to adopt this approach to hiring in all of its stores. Accordingly, the nation’s second largest retailer recently announced that it is removing questions about criminal history from its job applications. As a result, potential employees in North Carolina no longer will be asked on a Target job application about their criminal history or check a box if they have such a record.

This “ban the box” approach has been advocated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since May of 2012. Some 10 states and over 50 cities have adopted this approach. As other companies adopt the restriction, the practice will benefit North Carolina residents even if our state legislature fails to adopt such a strategy in its continued efforts to decrease the collateral consequences for those with non-violent criminal offenses on their records.