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House passes ‘Ban the Box’ measure for applicants to state boards, commissions

Most employers are statutorily prohibited from inquiring into or considering an applicant’s criminal history until the applicant has been selected for an interview or, if there is no interview, when a conditional offer of employment is made.

Passed 82-47 by the House Monday is a bill that’d extend that “Ban the Box” prohibition to state multimember agencies, which, per the bill, includes boards, commissions, agencies, committees, councils, authorities, advisory task forces and advisory councils.

It would also make technical changes to the process of filling vacant positions by open appointment.

Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF375 that is now bound for the Senate.

“In 2009 we became the second state in the nation to ban the box for public employees and in 2013 we banned the box for private employers,” she told a House committee earlier this month. “This bill really brings our executive branch up to speed with public employers and private industries across Minnesota.”

Bill supporters say it is important someone has a chance to establish their qualifications for a position, rather than be automatically excluded based on their criminal history. The change would give an applicant an opportunity to explain their past and allow an employer to determine if those past wrongs are relevant to the board or commission position an applicant seeks.

Background checks would still be permitted later in the process.

“It’s really important that we’re casting a large net to get as many qualified applicants as possible. Within the current system we know that we’re missing out on great applicants who decide to not even apply when they see that box there,” Hollins said, adding current rules disproportionately effect candidates of color, which has led to a lack of diversity on boards and commissions. 

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