Colorado’s “Ban the Box” Law Opens Doors for Job Applicants with Criminal Pasts

Colorado Ban the Box LawThis September, Colorado will become the 13th state to “Ban the Box,” referring to the question found on standard job applications which would require the applicant to disclose whether they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense.

The Colorado Chance to Compete Act (HB 1025) prohibits private employers from:

  • stating in ads or on applications that a person with a criminal history may not apply for the position, or
  • inquiring into or requiring disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history on an initial written or electronic application form

 

The act’s prohibitions do not apply if:

  • the law prohibits employing for that position a person with a specific criminal history,
  • the position is designated by the employer to participate in a government program to encourage the employment of people with criminal histories, or
  • the employer is required by law to conduct a criminal history record check

 

Legislative Intent

A number of legislative findings were advanced in support of the bill.  Lawmakers observed that applicants with criminal histories are less likely to be considered for an available job when that information is disclosed on an initial job application.  People with criminal histories experience unemployment or work below their potential, negatively affecting children, families and the economy.  Removing job barriers for people with criminal records benefits the family structure and society in general.  Still, the act does not prevent employers from conducting background checks and expressly allows an employer to obtain publicly available criminal background reports at any time.  Rather, the act strikes a balance by giving people with criminal records with a more meaningful chance to compete for jobs and at the same time protecting an employer’s ability to make informed hiring decisions.

 

Enforcement and Penalties

A person whose rights under the law have been violated cannot sue the employer but may file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.  The Department is expected to adopt rules for handling complaints.  Penalties start with a warning for a first violation and go up to $2,500 for a third violation.  The law takes effect for employers with 11 or more employees on September 1, 2019 and for all other employers on September 1, 2021.

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