By: Laura L. Rubenstein, Esq.
Despite Baltimore City’s ordinance requiring certain questions on employment applications be banned, many employers remain out of compliance. The 2014 law requires that public and private employers with 10 or more employees working in the city remove from their employment applications questions asking candidates about their criminal backgrounds. It also prohibits inquiries to prospective candidates about their criminal backgrounds during the initial interview. Criminal background inquiries can be made after an offer of conditional employment is made.
The purpose of the ordinance is to eliminate discrimination of applicants with criminal histories. The law, however, provides two exceptions. First, it does not apply to employers who are authorized by federal, state or local laws to consider an applicant’s criminal history. For example, a transportation company has the right to inquire into an applicant’s driving convictions pursuant to Department of Transportation licensing regulations.
Second, the law does not apply to employers that provide programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults. So an elementary school, for example, retains the right to inquire about sexual abuse convictions of its applicants.
Violations of the law can result in criminal penalties up to a $500 fine and 90 days in prison for each offense. Monetary damages may also be awarded to those individuals who file a complaint with the Baltimore Community Relations Commission.
Employers in Baltimore City should immediately review their employment applications and hiring processes to ensure compliance. Any questions on applications pertaining to criminal history should be removed and any recruiting or hiring personnel should be apprised of this requirement through training and policy revisions.