Connecticut Governor Signs “Ban-the-Box” Law Prohibiting Questions About Criminal History on Initial Employment Applications
On June 1, 2016, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a bill that precludes employers from asking an applicant about his or her criminal history on an initial employment application. (See House Bill 5237, signed into law as Public Act 16-83.) This new law will take effect on January 1, 2017.
With this new law, Connecticut joins the growing list of states and municipalities that place limitations on an employer’s ability to obtain information about an applicant’s criminal history. (See, e.g., http://www.kmm.com/articles-476.html.) These laws are often called “ban the box” laws because, among other things, they prohibit employers from asking applicants to check a box on an employment application indicating whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime.
Restrictions Under This New Law
Under this new law, Connecticut employers with one or more employees are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s prior arrests, criminal charges or convictions on an initial employment application, unless: (1) the employer is required to do so under state or federal law; or (2) a security or fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required for the position for which the applicant is seeking employment. If one of these two exceptions applies, the employer may continue to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history on its initial employment application, and must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure on the application advising applicants of their rights under existing Connecticut law that:
- they are not required to disclose the existence of any arrest, criminal charge or conviction, the records of which have been erased pursuant to Sections 46b-146, 54-76o or 54-142a of the Connecticut General Statutes;
- the criminal records subject to erasure pursuant to Sections 46b-146, 54-76o or 54-142a are records pertaining to a finding of delinquency or that a child was a member of a family with service needs, an adjudication as a youthful offender, a criminal charge that has been dismissed or nolled, a criminal charge for which the person has been found not guilty or a conviction for which the person received an absolute pardon; and
- any person whose criminal records have been erased pursuant to Sections 46b-146, 54-76o or 54-142a shall be deemed to have never been arrested with respect to the proceedings so erased and may so swear under oath.
Notably, this new law does not preclude employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history at later stages of the application process, such as in a job interview or in a follow-up request for information. If an employer uses a form or questionnaire to obtain information regarding an applicant’s criminal history at a later stage of the application process, it must provide the written disclosure described above regarding applicants’ rights under Connecticut law.
While this new law does not appear to provide a private right of action, individuals alleging a violation of the law may file a complaint with the Connecticut Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner has the authority to, among other things, award civil penalties of $300 for each violation of this law.
This new law also provides that a Fair Chance Employment Task Force will be established to study and report on various issues including, but not limited to, the employment opportunities available to people with criminal histories. It is therefore possible that the Task Force may recommend a more restrictive law in the future.
Prior to January 1, 2017, Connecticut employers should review their initial employment application forms (including any electronic application materials) and remove any questions seeking information about an applicant’s criminal history (unless one of the exceptions in the new law applies). Multi-state employers may also wish to use this opportunity to review their employment applications generally, to ensure that these materials comply with the various “ban-the-box” laws that have been enacted in other jurisdictions where they have employees.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions or would like assistance in reviewing or revising your company’s employment applications and related materials and procedures to comply with this new law.
 This new law amends Section 31-51i of the Connecticut General Statutes.