As an employer in Maryland, you need to keep up to date on your local, state, and federal obligations toward employees, workers, and job applicants. A relatively new law you need to be aware of is the Ban the Box law in Maryland. This law requires you to be careful about how you screen for new employees and workers.
What are your obligations under the Ban the Box law? We’ll go into that below as we explore how to protect your interests as an employer seeking new workers. Our experienced attorneys at Smithey Law Group LLC can help you formulate and implement appropriate business practices to avoid the legal implications of the Ban the Box laws.
What Is Ban the Box?
The term “Ban the Box” comes from the question on many job applications that required applicants to check a “yes” or “no” box if they had any convictions. Under the Ban the Box law, the State of Maryland forbids employers from performing criminal history screenings of job applicants before their first in-person interview. In our world of so many technological advances, please note that phone and video conference interviews are considered in-person interviews.
The Ban the Box law was enacted on February 29, 2020, and it has far-reaching effects on hiring and recruiting in Maryland. Ban the Box outlaws job application questions that require a job seeker to disclose their criminal history and formal and informal requests for information about an applicant’s criminal background.
Which Employers Must Comply with Ban the Box Rules in MD?
Statewide, the Ban the Box rules apply only to employers with 15 or more full-time employees. However, some Maryland cities and counties have more restrictive rules. For instance, the City of Baltimore prohibits employers with at least 10 employees from screening for or asking applicants about their criminal records before the employer extends a conditional job offer. Speak to our skilled Maryland employment attorneys about your hiring and screening options under state and local laws.
What Questions Must an Employer Avoid Under the Ban the Box Law?
Maryland’s law not only prohibits employers from inquiring about criminal convictions, but it also forbids employers from asking questions about other types of criminal trouble in a job seeker’s background. An employer cannot ask about the following:
- A guilty verdict,
- A guilty plea,
- A plea of nolo contendere,
- An arrest,
- A “stet” marking on a docket,
- A probation disposition before judgment, or
- A disposition of not criminally responsible.
To avoid liability, you need to steer clear of any appearance that you are attempting to learn about a potential employee’s run-ins with the law.
Does the Ban the Box Law Apply Only to Hiring Full-Time Employees?
No. While the number of full-time employees you have is the basis for whether you must comply with Maryland’s law against criminal screenings, the law also prohibits you from conducting criminal history screenings when searching for other types of workers. Before an in-person interview, you can not conduct criminal screenings on individuals seeking the following types of work:
- Full-time employment,
- Contractual work,
- Temporary work,
- Seasonal work,
- Contingent work,
- Work from temp agencies,
- Work from employment services agencies,
- Vocational training, and
- Educational training.
While reviewing your hiring policies and practices, you must ensure that your screening procedures for all work opportunities comply with the law. Among other things, you should review the questions on your applications and questionnaires and your training for your hiring managers to help ensure your screening procedures are in line with the law.
Penalties for Violating the Law
If an employer violates the Ban the Box law, an affected applicant or worker can file a complaint with the Commissioner of the Maryland Department of Labor. An Employer can also be subject to complaints and state or local penalties if they retaliate against an employee for claiming a Ban the Box violation.
If an employer infringes on the law multiple times, the state requires payment of a $300 penalty for each affected applicant or employee. Keep in mind that the $300 penalty is the penalty under state law. Penalties for violations of city or county laws can be higher. In fact, Montgomery County can charge a penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.
Exceptions to the Law
There are some exceptions to Maryland’s prohibition against criminal screenings for employment. You can inquire about the criminal history of a potential employee or worker if one of the following circumstances apply:
- You are hiring for a certain type of education position;
- You are hiring for a position in the financial sector;
- Your business provides services for minors;
- You are hiring for a position in information technology;
- You are required or authorized by state or federal law to conduct a criminal screening; or
- Your business provides services for vulnerable adults.
Smithey Law Group LLC Can Help Ensure Your Hiring Practices Are Sound
Properly fielding job applications is a crucial part of maintaining a thriving business. You want to make sure you hire the best people for your workforce needs, and you want to make sure that your hiring practices are not in conflict with current laws. At Smithey Law Group, our skilled attorneys can help ensure that you utilize the best employment practices possible while avoiding legal trouble. And if you are facing an employment complaint or penalties, we can defend your interests.
Smithey Law Group consists of award-winning attorneys who are recognized leaders in the employment law field. Our practice focuses solely on labor and employment law. We also write books on Maryland employment law, and legal communities nationwide seek us out for speaking engagements regarding employment matters. You can talk to us if you need a knowledgeable attorney to guide you through your rights and options as an employer. Call us at 410-881-8994 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation.