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Criminal Background Checks

Building strong communities means removing structural barriers to provide Minnesotans with criminal records a fair chance at employment.

Having a criminal record can present significant obstacles to employment, particularly for Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx communities. For instance, Black Minnesotans are arrested at a higher rate than any other racial group in Minnesota, according to the NAACP.

By intentionally rethinking and implementing policies that help people with criminal records find employment, employers can make institutional changes that bring about racial justice and build thriving communities.

About Ban the Box 

To help end discrimination against people with criminal records, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights enforces the state's Ban the Box law for private employers.

Ban the Box requires employers to consider a job candidate’s skills and experiences before asking about an applicant’s criminal record. The employer must wait until the applicant has been selected for an interview or until a conditional job offer has been extended.

The law is commonly known as "ban the box," referencing the elimination of a check box question on an application asking applicants if they have a criminal record.

Employer Tips 

  • Review your applicant materials. Any information that arguably suggests that an individual needs to disclose criminal history information in answering a question in pre-hire materials should be removed or amended to comply with the law.
  • Make sure background checks make sense for your business, including your company’s values.
  • If you ask applicants during the interview about their criminal history, assess the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that has passed since the offense and/or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job sought.
  • Provide ongoing equity training to your employees and review your human resources policies through an equity lens whenever possible.

Applicant Tips

  • If asked about your criminal history at the initial application stage, you are not required to answer the question. You should report the potential violation to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
  • During the interview stage, if asked about your criminal history, explain to the employer why you are applying and why you are a great fit for the position and the organization. 

Facts about Ban the Box 

  • Ban the Box for public employers became law in 2009 and was expanded to private employers in 2013.
  • If a company’s headquarters are based in another state and have operations in Minnesota, Ban the Box applies to application processes for jobs in Minnesota. 
  • There are certain occupations for which a criminal background check is required under Minnesota law such as teachers, school bus drivers, and apartment managers. 
  • Employers may still conduct background checks or ask an applicant about their criminal record but must wait until the applicant has been selected for an interview or until a conditional job offer has been extended. 
  • Employers who violate the law may be subject to a fine. 
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