What is the “Ban-the-Box” Law?
On February 29, 2020, a new law that aims to give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at employment took effect in Maryland. The Criminal Record Screening Practices Act (CRSPA) was vetoed in 2019 by Governor Larry Hogan, but the Maryland Legislature overturned his veto in January of 2020. Now, employers need to take note of what this new law means for them and how they need to adjust their hiring practices to be compliant.
Why Ban the Box?
Advocates for the new law cite research that shows having a criminal record can reduce an applicant’s chance of receiving a callback for a job by nearly 50% and that jurisdictions who have already enacted ban-the-box laws have fewer repeat offenders. Maryland joins 13 other states and the federal government that have ban-the-box laws for private employers. Last year Congress passed the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019, which goes in effect in 2021. This law prohibits federal agencies and contractors from asking about an applicant’s criminal history.
Opponents of the new law are concerned that ban-the-box laws lead to logistical issues and increased work for human resource departments, which can become costly for owners of smaller businesses.
Who Bans the Box?
Under the CRSPA, employers with at least 15 full-time employees are prohibited from asking an applicant for employment to disclose his or her criminal record before the first in-person interview. The CRSPA covers traditional full-time employment as well as any work for pay (seasonal, part-time, etc.) as well as any form of vocation or educational training that is not for pay. Unlike other states’ versions of Ban-the-Box which prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal record at any time before an offer of employment, Maryland’s CRSPA only prohibits employers from asking before the first in-person interview. So, an employer is within his or her right to ask an applicant to disclose his or her criminal record, as long as they do so during the first in-person interview or any time after.
The only exemption is for employers who provide programs or services to minors or other vulnerable adults.
Who Enforces Ban the Box?
Maryland’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry is authorized to enforce the CRSPA. If it is determined by the Commissioner that an employer is not acting in compliance with CRSPA, a warning will be issued. For every violation after the first, the Commissioner may assess a penalty of up to $300.
The CRSPA also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against applicants or current employee who alleges a violation of CRSPA.