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Kansas City Joins Several States and Municipalities in Banning the Box

By James N. Foster, Jr. - McMahon Berger, PC.

May 21, 2018

Effective June 9, 2018, a new Kansas City, Missouri ordinance places restrictions on an employer’s inquiries into, and the use of, criminal record information. The ordinance applies to private employers with six or more employees, although some limited exceptions may apply, such as where a statute or regulation prohibits an individual from applying for a position due to a criminal conviction. The city already had prohibited such criminal history questions from employment applications for government positions in 2014.

As a result of the new ordinance, an employer may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until after it determines the individual is otherwise qualified for the position and only after the applicant has been interviewed for the position. Once these two initial questions have been answered, an employer may inquire of all applicants who are “within the final selection pool of candidates.” Hence, the box asking about an applicant’s criminal history has been removed from the application process.

The ordinance also requires an employer basing a hiring or promotion decision on an applicant’s criminal history to be able to establish that the decision was based on “all available information” including consideration of the frequency, recentness and severity of a criminal record.

Thus, an employer may take adverse action based on criminal record information only if the individual’s offenses are “reasonably related to the duties and responsibilities of the position.”

In the event a violation of the ordinance is alleged, the new “ban-the-box” requirements will be investigated by the Kansas City Human Relations Department, which is charged with investigating, conciliating and prosecuting alleged violations of the Kansas City Human Relations Act. Potential remedies for violating the ordinance include civil penalties, reinstatement, back pay and actual damages.

Kansas City now joins over 150 other states and local governments who have enacted similar laws “banning the box,” including Columbia, Missouri. While neither the State of Missouri nor the City of St. Louis have followed suit to date with respect to private employers, similar legislation has been submitted for consideration in the past, and likely will be pursued again in the near future.

Employers with operations in Kansas City would be well-advised to review their employment applications to ensure they are compliant with the new ordinance.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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