Legislative Update: Vermont – “Ban the Box”

On May 3, 2016, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law House Bill #261 which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, public or private, to request criminal history information on an employment application. The new law, which takes effect on July 1, 2017, restricts employers from asking questions related to a job applicants possible criminal history or requesting permission to conduct a criminal background check until after the first job interview. However, Vermont employers are allowed to ask criminal conviction questions on an initial employment application if the following conditions are met:

1.) The prospective employee is applying for a position for which any federal or state law or regulation creates a mandatory or presumptive disqualification based on a conviction for one or more types of criminal offenses; or
2.) The employer or an affiliate of the employer is subject to an obligation imposed by any federal or state law or regulation not to employ an individual, in either one or more positions, who has been convicted of one or more types of criminal offenses; and
3.) The questions on the application form are limited to the types of criminal offenses creating the disqualification or obligation.

The Vermont law is following in the footsteps of other state laws that either require or recommend employers conduct individual assessments of each job candidate including reviewing their criminal convictions and how, if at all, those convictions would hinder that candidate from successfully completing the tasks listed on the job description and/or pose a safety risk to the employee population or general public.

Enforcement of this law is statute driven and any violating employer of this provision will be assessed a $100.00 civil penalty for each violation that occurs.

“Ban the box” legislation is continuing to expand in 2016. Employers with questions regarding “ban the box” should consult with their legal counsel to ensure they are complying with the numerous laws regulating the use of criminal history in employment.

For more information on the Vermont Ban the Box law, see the following websites:
Governor’s Comments – http://governor.vermont.gov/node/2747
State Legislature’s Final Bill – http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/ACTS/ACT081/ACT081%20As%20Enacted.pdf
Law Firm Interpretation – http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/vermont-joins-the-ranks-of-cities-and-69335/