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A User's Guide to Maryland's "Ban the Box" Law

By Aron Zavaro, Esq.

It's not easy to apply for a new job when you have a criminal record. While you might have a lot to offer, some employers won't even give you the time of day because your conviction hangs over your application like a dark cloud. If this sounds familiar, you're in luck, because Maryland recently joined a growing number of states and local jurisdictions to enact a "Ban the Box" law that makes it illegal for employers to ask applicants about their criminal history on job applications. Employers and applicants alike should familiarize themselves with the new law that takes effect on February 29, 2020:

  • What Does It Prohibit? It is unlawful to ask an applicant about their criminal record any time before their first in-person interview. This sets Maryland's new law apart from some other "Ban the Box" laws, which prohibit inquiries about criminal history any time prior to making an offer. To comply with the law, not only should employers remove criminal record inquiries from their applications, but they should also instruct recruiters not to ask such questions during the early screening phase.
  • Compliance with Other "Ban the Box" Laws. Although the Maryland law is less restrictive than some other "Ban the Box" laws, employers in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County are still subject to the requirements of their local, more restrictive "Ban the Box" laws. Additionally, effective December 20, 2021, The Fair Chance Act will ban federal contractors from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history until after a conditional offer is made.
  • To Whom Does It Apply? The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees; however, there are two exceptions:
    • Employers that provide programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults
    • Employers required to inquire about applicants' criminal records in order to comply with other federal or state laws
  • What Are the Penalties? Upon receipt of a written complaint from an applicant, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry may investigate the matter, and if they determine that there has been a violation, they will issue an order compelling compliance with the law. For any subsequent violations, the Commissioner may issue a penalty of up to $300.

Contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-441-1400 if you have any questions about "Ban the Box" or any other employment law issues.

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