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Vermont’s New “Ban the Box” Legislation

Earlier this month, the Vermont Legislature passed House Bill 261, an act relating to criminal record inquiries by an employer.  The legislation, set to take effect July 1, 2017, prohibits employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s criminal history record on an initial employment application.

If, after the initial application has been reviewed, the employer elects to bring in the applicant for an interview, or if the applicant is otherwise deemed qualified for the job, the employer may then inquire as to criminal history.  If the employer chooses to ask these questions, the prospective employee must be offered an opportunity to explain any criminal record and the circumstances surrounding that record, including any rehabilitation.

The Act provides an exception for employers who are required by state or federal law or regulation to refrain from employing individuals with one or more types of convictions on their records, so long as the questions included on the application are limited to the types of offenses prohibited.

Practical tips for employers:

  • Review your employment applications for any questions regarding criminal history, and plan to phase out these forms by July 1, 2017.  Prepare new employment applications without any reference to criminal history or convictions.
  • Revise interview guides and train your managers regarding questioning applicants about their criminal history.  Make sure this training includes an opportunity for the prospective employee to provide feedback on their criminal record.  Managers should be trained to be consistent in the questions asked of all applicants.
  • Review any employee criminal background policies you may have in place, and revise as necessary to comply with the new legislation.
  • Think you may be subject to an exemption based on state or federal law or regulation?  Review carefully what limitations are in place (e.g., are you only prohibited from employing individuals with felony convictions?) and tailor your employment applications accordingly.

If you have questions about this new law, the Employment + Labor Team at Paul Frank + Collins is happy to assist.