It’s not easy to apply for a new job when you have a criminal record. A conviction can hang over your application like a dark cloud and overshadow everything you have to offer. “Ban the Box” laws seek to address this worry by prohibiting employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history during their application process. As we previously blogged, Maryland passed its own “Ban the Box” law back in February this year, and now Virginia joins the ranks of the growing number of states with such laws.
Effective July 1st, Virginia’s Ban the Box law makes it illegal for an employer or educational institution to require an applicant for employment or admission to “disclose information concerning any arrest, criminal charge, or conviction.” Furthermore, applicants need not answer any questions relating to arrests, criminal charges, or convictions.
There are, however, a few exceptions. The law does not apply to
- law-enforcement agency positions
- positions for employment by the local school board
- “sensitive” positions i.e., those responsible for health and safety, those with access to sensitive information, and those deemed sensitive by state or federal law
Employers should be careful not to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history during the application process. However, the law does permit employers to make inquiries into criminal history during or after an interview of a prospective employee. Employers should also train their recruiters to ensure they are in compliance with the new law. Although the law does not provide applicants with a private cause of action, willful violations can be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor for each violation.
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