by Leigh Anne Benedic
Ohio’s new ban-the-box law prohibiting public-sector employers from asking job applicants about criminal convictions early in the hiring process will take effect on March 23.
The law doesn’t apply to private-sector employers, but when it takes effect, state agencies and political subdivisions will be prohibited from including questions about a job applicant’s criminal background on any form or application.
State agencies are defined to include institutions, offices, and agencies established by the state of Ohio for the exercise of any function of government. Political subdivisions are defined to include counties, townships, municipal corporations, and “any other body corporate or politic that is responsible for government activities in a geographic area smaller than that of the state.”
The statute doesn’t say at what point in the application process a public-sector employer may inquire about an applicant’s criminal history. As a best practice, many employers now wait until the first interview is complete before they conduct criminal background checks or ask applicants about their criminal history. At a minimum, public-sector employers in Ohio should review job applications and eliminate applicants who don’t meet the basic job requirements before inquiring into applicants’ criminal history.
Individuals convicted of certain crimes are disqualified from employment in some public-sector jobs. For example, municipalities are prohibited from employing police officers who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a felony, and school employees must undergo a criminal background check and are disqualified from employment if they have been convicted of violent, sexual, weapons-related, and various other offenses.
The new law permits public-sector employers with those and similar categories of employees to state on their applications the circumstances that would disqualify applicants from employment in certain positions.
More information on Ohio’s new ban-the-box law affecting public-sector employers will be available in the March issue of Ohio Employment Law Letter.