Columbia City, Missouri, Bans the Box and More

By Michael Klazema on 12/15/2014

The City of Columbia’s new ordinance prohibits all employers in the city from inquiring about, questioning, or seeking information about any arrests, charges, or convictions of an applicant either (a) on an employment application, or (b) at any time before making a contingent offer of employment.

Exceptions to the ordinance include the following:

  1. When employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to local, state, or federal law or regulation;
  2. When a fidelity bond or equivalent bond is required for the position and a conviction would disqualify the applicant from the bond; and
  3. When hiring individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.

The ordinance does not prohibit an employer from notifying applicants in writing of the specific offenses that will disqualify them from employment in a particular position. However, it does warn employers against having an automatic ban on jobseekers with a criminal history. It also encourages employers to consider the nature of an offense, time since the offense, and corrective measures taken when making an employment decision about someone with a criminal history.

The city’s Human Rights Commission is charged with enforcing the ordinance. Violations of the ordinance can result in a misdemeanor conviction and a fine of up to $1,000, or imprisonment up to thirty days; or both a fine and imprisonment.

Unusually, any individual – even not one applying for a job – may report employment application violations to the Commission, with the same effect as if an applicant had reported it.

For a copy of City of Columbia Council Bill No. B328-14, visit:

What this update means for you:

  • Columbia, Missouri has made it illegal to inquire about criminal history prior to a contingent offer of employment (with some exceptions).
  • You should determine whether you have employees in Columbia, Missouri.
  • If you do, review your employment application and the timing of your background checks with your lawyer.

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