2020 | Government

Bill would prohibit background checks until conditional job offer

Employers could not ask about certain crimes

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The Montgomery County Council is considering a bill that would set limits on what information an employer could seek about an applicant’s criminal history.

The employer could not check an applicant’s background until there is a conditional job offer. The employer also could not ask about certain crimes.

The bill, introduced at the council’s meeting on Wednesday, would expand the current “Ban the Box” law. Under that law, employers in the county with at least 15 full-time employees can’t do criminal background checks of applicants and can’t ask about criminal or arrest history before a first interview.

Under the new bill, spearheaded by Council Member Will Jawando, the standard for employers would change from at least 15 full-time employees to one. About 85% of the county’s businesses have fewer than 15 employees, he said.

Employers would not be able to check applicants’ arrest records that didn’t result in convictions, or any arrest or convictions records for trespassing, disturbing the peace, and second-degree assault.

It would also restrict them from asking about records regarding misdemeanor convictions if at least three years has passed since the conviction and incarceration ended. Confidential and expunged records are also covered under the proposed bill.

County Executive Marc Elrich would be required to create regulations that would inform prospective employees and employers of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

A public hearing on the legislation will be at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 15.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Jawando said that when he met with inmates at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, they told him that they had trouble re-entering society, getting a job and having a “fair shake.”

“Once you get back in, you should be able to get housing, get a job and get back on your feet,” Jawando said. “In no time in our history is that more important than right now, coming out of [COVID-19].

The proposed bill would update and strengthen the “Ban the Box” law in significant ways, he said.

“I think it’s common sense — updating the law to ensure that all of our residents can contribute to society after they have paid their debt to society.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.