New Year Brings New Background Check Laws to Numerous States

By Michael Klazema on 1/1/2014

It’s a new year, and that means that new background check legislation has officially gone into effect all over the country. Often when new employment screening laws – or for that matter, any laws – are proposed and approved, they are given an official start date of January 1st. Now that January 2014 is upon us, several states are experiencing notable changes to their background check policies for the first time in months.

For instance, Minnesota has become the latest state to add “Ban the Box” legislation to its state law books. Following in the footsteps of several other states and cities, the Minnesota “Ban the Box” law will seek to give ex-criminals a second chance in landing employment. As with other “Ban the Box” legislation, the new Minnesota policy will prohibit employers from asking questions pertaining to criminal history on initial job applications.

The goal of the legislation is to give people with criminal records an opportunity to land job interviews, get face-to-face time with prospective employers, and better “state their case” for employment. Proponents of the law hope that it will help ex-convicts to build new lives after prison and to avoid falling back into old criminal habits. In addition, the bill views the hiring of people with criminal records as an essential economic action, citing the country’s aging workforce as an issue that will soon call for a wider applicant pool. With 92 million Americans currently possessing a criminal record of some sort, Minnesota thinks that employers no longer have the luxury of rejecting applicants on the basis of a single 20-year-old offense or a petty, nonviolent crime.

Minnesota’s decision to join the “Ban the Box” bandwagon is big news for the background check industry, as many other states will likely follow suit with their own variation on the law in the coming year. (Rhode Island also has “Ban the Box” legislation that went into effect on January 1st, 2014.) However, other states also have background check legislation taking effect with the New Year, such as Georgia, where a new law will now require childcare workers to submit to a federal fingerprint background check prior to employment. Previously, Georgia has only required state background checks, which run the risk of missing major criminal offenses if they took place in other states. Since daycare workers are consistently put in close contact with young children, state background checks simply do not provide adequate protection or security.

The new law, which will require all incoming and existing childcare workers to undergo a federal check, will more fully flesh out Georgia’s childcare security standards. Background checks for incoming applicants switched over on January 1st. Existing employees, meanwhile, have until 2017 to complete the federal fingerprint background check. That’s a long time, and it’s likely that criminals who have managed to avoid detection within Georgia’s childcare system so far will attempt to put off their checks for as long as possible. However, while the new law won’t completely secure the Georgia childcare industry right away, it is a step in the right direction for keeping kids safe.


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