Vermont Becomes 8th State to Ban the Box for Private Employers

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 9, 2016

Vermont has become the 8th state to pass a law banning private employers from including a criminal history box on job applications. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the measure on May 3, just one week after President Barack Obama directed federal agencies to adopt ban the box hiring practices.

Shumlin had signed an executive order in 2015 to remove criminal history questions from state job applications. But this law goes further and will apply to all Vermont private employers, effective July 1, 2017.

The new law does not prevent Vermont employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history during a job interview or later in the hiring process. It also does not preclude them from conducting background checks.

Other states that have passed ban the box laws affecting private employers include:

  • Hawaii;
  • Illinois;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Minnesota;
  • New Jersey;
  • Oregon; and
  • Rhode Island.

In all, 23 states have eliminated criminal history questions from their initial job applications either by law, executive order or as a matter of state policy. Meanwhile, more than 100 municipalities have passed ban the box ordinances. Some of the big cities that have passed ban the box laws applying to private employers that go beyond state laws include:

  • Baltimore
  • Chicago;
  • New York City;
  • Philadelphia;
  • San Francisco; and
  • Seattle.

These laws are designed to give rehabilitated ex-offenders a chance to prove their qualifications in an interview setting. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated in an Enforcement Guidance that before any employer rejects an applicant with a criminal record from employment, it should give the applicant a chance to explain the circumstances and why he or she should not be excluded from consideration.