Md.: Montgomery County Ban-the-Box Law Takes Effect

By Diane Cadrain Jan 15, 2015

Montgomery County’s new ban-the-box ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, bars employers from inquiring about applicants’ criminal histories until the end of their first interview. Because of the new law, applicants whose criminal histories might have prevented them from even applying for work will now be allowed to proceed farther into the application process.

Covered employers. Any person or entity operating and doing business in the county that employs 15 or more persons full-time is covered by the law. Employers providing programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults are not covered, nor are employers hiring for positions that require federal security clearance.

Prohibited inquiries. Covered employers may not:

*Require applicants to disclose the existence or details of their arrest or conviction records at any time before the conclusion of a first interview, require applicants to disclose whether they have an arrest or conviction record

*Retaliate against applicants who lawfully oppose violations or file complaints.

An interview is defined as any direct contact by the employer with the applicant (in person or by phone or Internet) to discuss the employment being sought or the applicant's qualifications.

Required actions. In making an employment decision based on an arrest or conviction record, an employer must make an individual assessment, considering only specific offenses bearing on a person’s fitness to do the job. An employer may rescind a conditional offer based on the applicant’s criminal record but must provide the applicant with a copy of the criminal report before doing so.

A Montgomery County press release explained that the ‘Ban-the-Box’ law gets its unofficial name from the question (or box to be checked) on an employment application that asks applicants about their criminal backgrounds.

“The bill would remove one of the barriers to employment facing persons with criminal records by prohibiting inquiry by certain prospective employers into a job applicant’s criminal history early in the hiring process,” the county stated.

Similar policies or laws have been adopted or enacted in several state and local jurisdictions, most recently the city of Baltimore in May 2014 and Washington, D.C., in July 2014. Other major cities that have already approved ban-the-box legislation include Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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