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Remember to Think Outside the Box: Ban-the-Box Laws Are Not the Only Restrictions on Consideration of an Applicant’s Criminal History

December 5, 2019

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A growing chorus of cities, counties, and states have passed “ban-the-box” laws that restrict when and how employers can consider an applicant’s or employee’s criminal history. Currently, thirteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and eighteen cities and counties (Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (MO), District of Columbia, Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles, Montgomery County (MD), New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Prince George’s County (MD),  Rochester, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, and Westchester County (NY)) have ban-the-box legislation for private employers.

However, employers often forget that use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions may also violate the federal prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. For instance, an employer’s neutral policy to exclude applicants from employment based on certain criminal conduct may disproportionately impact individuals of a certain race or national origin.

Recently, Dollar General Corp. agreed to pay $6 million to resolve a discrimination suit brought by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the use of Dollar General’s broad criminal background check policy that purportedly discriminated against African-American applicants and employees. In addition to the monetary settlement, Dollar General must hire a criminology consultant to develop and implement a new criminal background check policy.  The consent decree also requires Dollar General to update its reconsideration process and make it clear to rejected applicants that they may provide information to support reconsideration of their exclusion. The consent decree further

Colorado Employers Face New Employment Laws

With Colorado’s return to one-party control, Colorado employers face a spate of new employment laws. Employers in Colorado should review their practices, policies, and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with these new laws.

Colorado Chance to Compete Act—“Ban the Box” Legislation: Under the new law, an employer may not state in an advertisement or application that a person with a criminal history may not apply to the position. The employer also may not inquire about or require the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history in an initial application. The law takes effect on September 1, 2019, for employers with 11 or more employees, and September 1, 2021 for employers with fewer than 11 employees.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act: The law prohibits an employer from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex by paying an employee of one sex a wage rate less than the rate paid to an employee of a different sex for substantially similar work, regardless of job title. The law also prohibits an employer from seeking or relying on a prospective employee’s wage rate history to determine a wage rate. Finally, employers may not prohibit employees from discussing their wage rates. The law takes effect January 1, 2021.

Criminal Penalties for Wage Violations:  Employers who willfully refuse to pay a wage claim or falsely deny the validity of a wage claim over $2,000 may be liable for felony theft. The penalty for theft ranges from $50 to $1,000,000 depending upon the

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