In 2014, Governor Dayton signed into law Minnesota Statutes § 364.01-364.10, collectively called the Ban the Box Legislation. The Ban the Box legislation expands to private employers the prohibition of requiring a potential employee to admit on a job application whether or not they have been convicted of a serious crime, on a job application by checking a box. This ban has been in effect for public employers in Minnesota since 2009. Unfortunately, some employers have had trouble complying with the new law, which has led to the Minnesota Department of Health investigating more than 50 companies according to a recent Star Tribune article.
According to the article, the problem applications still asked applicants about their criminal history, which the new law explicitly prohibits until either after the company decides to interview a potential employee or after there is a conditional offer of employment.
The law does provide for upwards of a $500.00 fine for each violation depending on the size of the company. Some big Minnesota employers were mentioned in the article as having received complaints, including Target, 3M and Morrie’s Automotive. The complaints regarding Target and 3M were due to outdated and old applications that were somehow in circulation and Morrie’s Automotive’s $500.00 fine was overturned and resolved. The only fine that has been imposed and not overturned was a fine against Elgin Milk Service, Inc. A spokesperson for that company says the company paid the fine because they did not know of the law change.
The Ban the Box legislation does not require an employer to hire any candidate with a criminal background; instead it provides the employer with that information later in the hiring process. The new law does not compel employers to interview individuals who have a criminal record nor does it prevent employers from conducting a criminal background check, especially if certain jobs are required to have criminal background checks under either state or federal law.
It is imperative that all Minnesota employers are in compliance with the new Ban the Box law on all of their employment applications. If an employer elects not to follow the new Ban the Box rule, the employer can be liable for discrimination under state or federal law. If it is found that an employer could possibly be violating the Ban the Box rule, any violations would be enforced by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and there is no private cause of action. Any violations found during the first year of enactment, an employer will be given just a written warning before any fines. If the violation is not remedied within thirty days of the written warning the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights may impose up to a $500.00 fine. For any violations that occur in 2015, the penalties are as follows:
For employers that employ 10 or fewer persons at a site the penalty is up to $100.00 for each violation,
For employers that employ 11-20 persons at a site the penalty is up to $500.00 for each violation, and
For employers that employ more than 20 persons at one or more sites the penalty is up to $500.00 for each violation, not to exceed $2,000 in a calendar month.