Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly overrode a veto from Governor Larry Hogan to put Senate Bill 839 into law. Senate Bill 839 is also known as the Ban the Box Act, and it will impact what criminal record questions you can have on your job application.
The Ban the Box Act states that employers who have 15 or more full-time employees cannot require a job applicant to disclose whether or not they have a criminal record or past criminal accusations before the first in-person interview. The Act went into effect on January 1, 2020.
What does the law say specifically? The law addresses conducting background checks before a conditional job offer is extended. Certain employers cannot require an applicant to disclose particular information regarding their criminal record except under specific circumstances. The law does allow businesses to still screen their applicants providing that they do so in accordance with the law.
First, understand that a criminal record is defined as an arrest, plea or verdict of guilty, plea of nolo contendere, the marking of a charge ‘stet’ on the docket, probation before judgement or a disposition of not criminally responsible.’ The Ban the Box Act might affect criminal record questions before the first interview, but it does not prohibit you from asking during the first in-person interview.
Next, be aware that the bill does allow employers to make inquiries if they are authorized to make them based on Federal or State law or they offer programs, services or direct care to vulnerable adults or minors. It also defines an employer as a business with 15 or more employees, which will rule out numerous small businesses. It’s important to read the letter of the law carefully.
If you violate the law, you could receive a misdemeanor and fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for up to 90 days. We encourage you not to overreact to “ban the box” legislation by immediately removing questions about prior criminal convictions from your applications as long as you have a clear criminal background checks policy and fall in line with the provisions outlined in the Ban the Box Act.
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has since 1999 been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs. This post does not constitute legal advice. Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm. Always contact competent employment legal counsel. Mr. Randisi can be contacted by phone at 410.494.0232 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or the website at randisiandassociates.com.