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Monday, February 10, 2014

Minnesota Takes Steps Toward Employment Reform

Effective January 1 of this year, employers in Minnesota will not be able to ask about a prospective candidate's criminal history on the initial application. While this is a small step in a country that incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet, it is significant. 

With each passing year, a greater percentage of Americans come in contact with the criminal justice system. This can leave otherwise-qualified candidates out in the cold when it comes to employment. In cases where restitution or monetary reparations are involves, stumbling blocks to employment not only hobble the ex-incarceree, but also limit victims' ability to be compensated for the crime. 

The newly-expanded "Ban the Box" law now covers private employers in the state of Minnesota. The new law requires public and private employers to wait until a job applicant has been selected for an interview before asking about criminal records or conducting a criminal record check. It makes it illegal for employers to disqualify a person from employment or to deny them a license because of their criminal background unless it is directly related to the position.

While the new law doesn't prevent an employer from throwing up a roadblock at the interview, it at least gets a resume or application in front of a hiring manager. This is definitely a step in the right direction -- especially in a job market that still suffers from post-recession softness.

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