Maryland is the Newest State to Ban the Box
Maryland has joined a growing number of states and jurisdictions enacting a “ban-the-box” law prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history on the initial job application. The new law will take effect on February 29, 2020.
What Employers are Prohibited to Ask
Under the act, employers with at least 15 full-time employees may not require an applicant for employment to disclose whether the applicant has a criminal record or criminal accusations brought against them prior to the first interview. The new law applies to traditional employment as well as contractual, temporary, seasonal, or contingent work, and work assigned through a temporary or other employment agency.
The Maryland act is not as stringent as other “ban-the-box” laws which can prohibit asking about an applicant’s criminal record at any time before a conditional offer of employment is made. In Maryland, the new law only prohibits criminal history inquiries before the first in-person interview. However, an employer may require an applicant to disclose whether they have a criminal record or have had criminal accusations brought against them during the first in-person interview.
Employers also are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against an applicant or employee as retribution for alleging a violation of the new law.
The new act does not apply to employers that provide programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults. Nor does the law prohibit employers from making a criminal history inquiry or taking other actions that the employer is either required or authorized to take under other federal or state law.
The new Maryland Ban the Box law permits local jurisdictions to enact “ban-the-box” legislation that is more restrictive than the state law. Currently, three jurisdictions in Maryland (Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County) already have more restrictive “ban-the-box” laws with greater requirements than the state law. Federal contractors also must comply with more restrictive requirements under the Fair Chance Act effective December 2021.
Ban the Box Enforcement
The Commissioner of Labor and Industry is authorized to enforce the Act. If the commissioner determines that an employer has violated this law, the commissioner will issue an order compelling compliance. For each subsequent violation, at the commissioner’s discretion, they may asses a civil penalty of up to $300.
Employers should review their current policies and seek consultation with their legal representation to ensure that their forms and hiring guidelines are in compliance.
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