New Minnesota law intended to help felons get jobs

Published 8:03 am Friday, January 3, 2014

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — A new Minnesota law took effect Wednesday that will prevent job applicants from having to disclose their criminal records on a job application.

Supporters say the law will give convicted felons a better shot at finding a decent job and turning their lives around. Some employees, however, say they’re confused over how the law will work, the St. Cloud Times reported ( ).

The so-called “Ban the Box” law means people will no longer have to check a box on job applications indicating they have criminal convictions.

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That doesn’t mean their background won’t come up, though. Employers can still ask about their criminal record during an interview, and they can still run background checks after the person has been selected for an interview. But supporters say at least applicants will have gotten far enough in the process to address the question directly, rather than have their applications rejected from the outset.

Michael Laidlaw, who works with the Minnesota Department of Corrections to provide transitional housing for former inmates, said the law will give job seekers a chance to explain themselves.

But not all businesses are on board, said attorney Betsey Lund, who has conducted training sessions on the law for central Minnesota businesses. She said employers aren’t clear about the exact point during the job-screening process that they can ask about an applicant’s criminal history.

“I think businesses are very concerned not with what the law says, but how it’s going to be implemented,” Lund said.