‘Ban the box’ expansion awaits gubernatorial action

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People with felony records could have an easier time getting their resumes in front of potential private employers under a bill on its way to the governor’s desk.

Since 2009, state law has banned a public employer from inquiring whether a job applicant has a criminal record or criminal history when a person applies for a job, but the law does not apply to private employers.

The so-called “Ban the box” bill would remove the question which asked job applicants to check a box about whether they have been convicted of a felony or gross misdemeanor crime.

Passed 107-26 by the House on Wednesday, HF690/ SF523* would include private employers among those who must wait until an applicant is contacted or interviewed to ask the question.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) sponsor the bill.

“This is really the second chance for a lot of the men and women that have made a mistake,” Mahoney said. “What is says to an employer: check the qualifications, and then talk to the person.”

Minnesota would be the third state to apply the standards to private, as well as public employers. More than 92 million Americans have an arrest or criminal conviction on their record, according to Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey.

“What I’ve known for many, many, years is that as men and women exit prison — unless there is some hope that they’ll be able to get back and be productive citizens, and with that earn a wage, be able to support their loved ones, — that the recidivism rate of these individuals is extremely high,” said Rep. Mike Benson (R-Rochester).

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