Years ago, a Minnesota man was charged with forgery, theft and rape and sentenced to jail. According to MPR News, he decided to repurpose his life and took college courses while imprisoned. Today, a decade after his release, the 47-year-old says his criminal record is still keeping him from finding employment.
A new law may help this man as well as thousands of other people across the state. The legislation mandates that many job applications in Minnesota remove the section devoted to an individual’s past criminal record. This may open the door for interviews, which are hard to obtain for many people with past arrests.
Why it matters
According to a 2012 report from the National Institute of Justice, almost 33 percent of adults in the United States were arrested at least once by the time they were 23 years old. Those instances will show up on a record even if they did not lead to a conviction, which the NIJ reports occurs in roughly one-third of felony arrests.
Those marks on a criminal record can be problematic. The National Employment Law Project conducted a survey in which the majority of businesses that participated reported they were opposed to hiring someone with a criminal background. Yet the NIJ states that employment is a key part of a successful re-entry into society because steady work decreases the chances that a person will commit another offense.
Some employers in the state, such as government agencies, already do not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until he or she reaches a more advanced phase of the process. The new law, which goes into effect in January 2015, would prevent even private employers from asking those questions on a job application.
While some companies are exempt from the law, such as day cares, others would face repercussions for violating the process. This year, an offending employer will first receive a warning. Continued violations will result in fines of as much as $500 for each infraction. Next year, there will not be a warning, and a company prematurely rejecting a candidate for a criminal charge will be fined.
Further into the hiring process, companies may ask an applicant about his or her past. In Minnesota, criminal court information such as the crime, date and sentence is public information. Anyone, including employers, can search court records or the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for information about a past conviction. People facing criminal charges such as a robbery or who have questions about how the new law may help them find employment should connect with a defense attorney.