Colorado and New Mexico Ban the Box; Others Face Enforcement Issues

A criminal record, regardless of the charges, is often a barrier to employment that ex-offenders find difficult to overcome. While more than half of U.S. states have enacted a "ban the box" law to remove criminal history questions from initial employment applications, some states still allow employers latitude in how they assess the suitability of candidates. 

Colorado is the latest to join the ranks of states that have passed ban the box rules applying not only to state government efforts but also private businesses in the state. The law will take effect in two phases, the first affecting employers of 11 or more beginning in September 2019 and the second applying to all employers, regardless of size, beginning September in 2021. 

Employers will have to wait to ask about or investigate an applicant’s history with tools such as’s US OneSEARCH. Colorado prohibits employers from stating in job listings that they will not consider applicants with criminal records. 

New Mexico passed a private ban the box law in mid-April. Signed by Governor Michelle Grisham, the legislation demands that employers of 4+ individuals ban the box from June 14, 2019. Criminal inquiries must wait until after an initial interview takes place. After a determination of initial suitability, employers may undertake a more thorough background check.

In Maryland, a ban the box bill failed to pass, receiving a veto from the state's governor. Despite a comfortable passage through the legislature with bipartisan support, the bill stopped with Governor Larry Hogan, who stated that employers should retain broad rights to determine who they hire. The veto arrives as one of Maryland's representatives in the U.S. House seeks to enact similar restrictions on a federal level. 

Some areas that have enacted ban the box laws report challenges with adoption and enforcement. California, which passed one of the nation's strictest fair chance laws, continues to document instances in which companies fail to comply with the law, asking applicants about their records too early or simply refusing to hire individuals whose background checks include criminal charges. Applicants are often unaware of their new rights; according to The Mercury News, advocates believe that education and outreach for both businesses and applicants is the solution. 

Washington, D.C.'s ban the box law has shown its teeth since its enactment, charging area businesses more than half a million dollars in violation fines. While the city has fielded nearly 2,000 complaints, the annual number of alleged violations is on the decline. Proponents believe that this decline signals growing acceptance among businesses and may indicate that the law works as intended. 

Understanding your rights and responsibilities during the hiring process is essential. Keep abreast of national and state-level policies that may impact your hiring procedures: provides businesses with a valuable source of information through our learning center.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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