'Ban the Box' bill passes House, ready to be signed into law

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'Ban the Box' bill passes House, ready to be signed into law

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 2:03pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Legislature passed the "Ban the Box" bill (H261), which forbids employers from asking on an application if a prospective employee has a criminal record. The employer will still be entitled to ask that question during the subsequent hiring process. The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith offered the following statement following the House's final vote to concur with the Senate.

“Ban the Box is an important reform that embodies Vermont values. I believe in the power of redemption, and that individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes shouldn’t be prejudged as they try to find employment. The current practice of screening prospective employees for prior criminal offenses denies many from ever getting in the door to demonstrate their abilities. We often hear that those who have committed crimes should take advantage of their second chance – yet there are often barriers that block progress. Ban the Box will lift a barrier and enable new opportunities for those seeking employment. I am proud to advance this bill to the Governor’s desk.”

The bill passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote, and it passed the House on a voice vote.

“Once a sentence has been served, there is no need to create a ‘life sentence’ that prevents future growth and opportunity,” said Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington and a member of the Main Street Alliance Board. “I believe that in order to create a strong, vibrant, and healthy Vermont community it is necessary to create a path toward success for this population so they can again contribute to our economy and rebuild their lives in a healthy and constructive way." Other MSA-VT members who voiced their support for the legislation include, Matt Birong, Owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Angela Earle-Gray, HR Director at Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, and Jason Aprea, Co-Owner of BBetter Inc. in Brattleboro.

“The support for this legislation in Vermont has been inspiring,” said Ashley Moore, Business Outreach Manager for MSA-VT. “One member in particular shared a story about his decision to start a business with his wife because his criminal record prevented him from getting a job post-incarceration.”

Legislation

This bill proposes to prohibit requiring the disclosure of criminal history record information on an initial employment application. An employer may inquire as to an applicant’s criminal history record during an interview or thereafter.

Sec. 1. 21 V.S.A. § 495j is added to read:

§ 495j. CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS; EMPLOYMENT

APPLICATIONS

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, an employer shall not request criminal history record information on its initial employee application form. An employer may inquire about a prospective employee’s criminal history record during an interview or once the prospective employee has been deemed otherwise qualified for the position.

(b) An employer may inquire about criminal convictions on an initial employee application form if the following conditions are met:

(1)(A) the prospective employee is applying for a position for which any federal or State law or regulation creates a mandatory or presumptive disqualification based on a conviction for one or more types of criminal offenses; or

(B) the employer or an affiliate of the employer is subject to an obligation imposed by any federal or State law or regulation not to employ individuals, in either one or more positions, who have been convicted of one or more types of criminal offenses; and

(2) the questions on the application form are limited to the types of criminal offenses creating the disqualification or obligation.

(c) If an employer inquires about a prospective employee’s criminal history record information, the prospective employee, if still eligible for the position under applicable federal or State law, must be afforded an opportunity to explain the information and the circumstances regarding any convictions, including postconviction rehabilitation.

(d) An employer who violates the provisions of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $100.00 for each violation.

(e) As used in this section:

(1) “Criminal history record” has the same meaning as set forth in 20 V.S.A. § 2056a.

(2) “Employee” has the same meaning as set forth in section 495d of this chapter.

(3) “Employer” has the same meaning as set forth in section 495d of this chapter.

Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on July 1, 2017.