In a recent post, we discussed some of the challenges confronted by job applicants with a criminal background — difficulties that may be more pronounced in a slumping economy. Although protections against employment discrimination in this area may be available for government sector employees, Minnesota law has not extended similar measures in the private sector.
However, the Minnesota Senate recently passed a bill that seeks to change that distinction. The proposed legislation would prohibit private employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until he or she has been invited for an interview or granted a conditional offer of employment. However, the proposed legislation would not overturn existing laws that prohibit the employment of ex-felons in certain industries, such as hospitals, nursing homes or other enumerated workplaces. Those employers would be permitted to continue inquiring about criminal histories in their application forms.
According to one local lawmaker and proponent of the bill, many private industry employers include a check-the-box section regarding an applicant’s criminal history in their application forms. Yet the lawmaker believes that such a provision might disqualify a surprising number of Minnesota job hunters. According to the lawmaker, as many as twenty percent of Minnesotans might have some sort of criminal record.
Notably, the bill was approved by a wide voting margin of 44 to 16, and many believe the legislation will fare equally well when it is sent to the Minnesota House of Representatives for a vote in the coming weeks. However, not all state lawmakers are in favor of the bill. At least one lawmaker is apprehensive of creating another area where state enforcement officials must monitor claims of employment discrimination.
Source: startribune.com, “Ex-felon employment bill approved by Minnesota Senate,” Jim Ragsdale, April 20, 2013.