Ban the Box Passes MN Senate and House Headed to Governor

May 8, 2013

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE PASSES BAN THE BOX FOR PRIVATE EMPLOYERS

St. Paul, MN— Today the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation called “Ban the Box” by advocates because it requires employers to remove the question, including check box, about criminal records from employment applications. Under the change employers will only be able to ask about criminal records once they have selected applicants for interviews. Officially Senate File 523, the bill passed the House today on a strongly bipartisan vote of 107-26, and the Senate had already passed it with a bipartisan vote of 44-16. Now it will head to the Governor’s desk for signature.

In 2009, Governor Pawlenty signed legislation to make Minnesota one of the first states to require all public employers to wait until applicants are chosen for an interview to ask applicants about their criminal background. This new legislation will make Minnesota only the third state to expand the concept to private employers. The chief authors were Senator Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis and Representative Tim Mahoney of St. Paul.

Efforts to make this change have been supported by over 50 organizations that came together over 5 years ago to form the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition (www.mnsecondchancecoalition.org). According to Coalition co-chair Sarah Walker, “The support and work of all involved in the Second Chance Coalition and others, including the efforts of Minnesota business associations to find a solution that would work best for employers, is what has made this possible.”

According to Second Chance Coalition information, over the last several decades, the number of Minnesotans throughout the state that have some type of a criminal record has increased to an estimated one million, or one in 5. Minnesota has the 8th highest percentage in the nation of its citizens incarcerated or currently on some type of supervision. With new and much easier access to these records and increased use of them by employers, many Minnesotans are turned away from employment for which they are qualified even if their record is unrelated, from long ago, or even inaccurate, often just based on their answer to the sometimes confusing question about criminal records on the initial employment application. Employers will benefit from this legislation by opening the initial step of their hiring process to a larger, potentially more qualified, and diverse pool of applicants and determining if their past is relevant to their current qualifications as an employee. Workers will benefit by being evaluated on their skills and qualifications for the job, not just their past. Those who have offended will then have greater opportunity to become responsible and tax-paying community members. Minnesota will benefit by developing a workforce that is employed to its full potential, both now and into the future when the demand for trained and skilled employees will increase.

Sarah Walker, sarahcwalker@gmail.com
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