Dinse Brief: "Ban the Box"

Yesterday, Governor Shumlin signed into law legislation which precludes employers from requesting criminal history record information on their initial employment application forms.  Employers may, however, ask about a prospective employee’s criminal history during an interview, or once the prospective employee has been deemed otherwise qualified for the position.  If an employer does make such an inquiry, the prospective employee, if still eligible for the position under applicable federal or state law, must be provided with an opportunity to explain the information and the circumstances regarding any conviction, including any post-conviction rehabilitation.

The new “ban the box” law does have limited exceptions.  Specifically, an employer may inquire about criminal convictions on an initial employment application form if (1) the prospective employee is applying for a position for which a federal or Vermont law requires automatic disqualification based on a conviction for one or more types of criminal offenses or (2) the employer, or an affiliate of the employer, is obligated by law to refrain from hiring an individual who has been convicted of one or more types of criminal offenses.  An employer’s inquiry under these limited circumstances must be restricted to questions that solely focus on the types of criminal offenses creating the disqualification or obligation.

This law applies to all employers who have at least one individual performing services within the state of Vermont.  Employers who violate the “ban the box” law shall be assessed a $100 penalty for each violation.  The new law goes into effect July 1, 2017.

Employers should immediately review their initial employment application forms and revise them, as needed, to comply with the new law.