Iowa expunged records law takes effect January 1

by Tara Z. Hall

While not a true “ban the box” measure, a new Iowa law taking effect January 1 will allow exonerated individuals to keep past criminal charges from becoming known to potential employers.

The measure, signed into law last spring, sets up a process for individuals who have been wrongfully accused of a crime and have “not guilty” verdicts and dismissed criminal charges against them to have the records expunged and erased. Senate File 385 was initiated by individuals who were wrongfully accused of crimes and were concerned that the accusations would negatively affect their employment opportunities.

Iowa’s law is not as far-reaching as laws in many other states that prohibit employers from asking applicants about their criminal records early in the hiring process. Generally, ban-the-box laws prohibit applications that ask applicants to check a box if they have criminal records. The laws also require that inquiries into criminal convictions be delayed until after an interview or after the employer has extended a conditional offer of employment.

For more information on the use of criminal background checks in Iowa, see the August and September 2015 issues of Iowa Employment Law Letter.

Tara Z. Hall is an attorney with Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at