News

Time for Oregon employers to prepare for ‘ban the box’ law

by Cal Keith

Oregon’s new “ban the box” law takes effect January 1, meaning employers will be prohibited from asking applicants to check a box inquiring about criminal history on employment applications.

The new law makes it unlawful to exclude an applicant from an initial interview solely because of a past criminal conviction. An applicant is unlawfully excluded if:

  1. The application requests criminal conviction information;
  2. The employer otherwise requires the applicant to disclose a criminal conviction prior to an initial interview; or
  3. If no interview is conducted, the employer requires the applicant to disclose a criminal conviction before a conditional offer of employment is made.

An employer is exempt from the new law if (1) federal, state, or local law requires it to consider applicants’ criminal history or (2) it is a law enforcement agency or is otherwise in the criminal justice system. In addition, nonemployee volunteers are not covered.

The new law won’t limit an employer’s right to make an employment decision based on a criminal conviction. Instead, it will limit how and when employers may gather criminal history information.

To comply with the law, Oregon employers should:

  • Modify both written and electronic employment applications to eliminate questions related to criminal convictions. This may create problems for multistate employers hoping to use one form.
  • Make sure all members of the hiring team know that they may not inquire about criminal convictions before an initial interview.
  • Develop a process for making an employment offer conditioned on a review of an applicant’s criminal history. A formal offer letter is probably the best way to do this.

For more information on Oregon’s new ban-the-box law, see the October issue of Oregon Employment Law Letter.

Cal Keith is an attorney with Perkins Coie LLP in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at ckeith@perkinscoie.com.