Clean Slate Laws: What Employers Need to Know
It’s no secret to hiring managers that fair chance hiring laws have gained momentum in recent years. However, confusion remains about how these affect an organization’s onboarding process throughout employment screening. Some, such as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019, have been enacted at a federal level, while others differ from state to state, such as “Ban the Box” laws. Clean slate laws are another prominent example of the latter, which we will cover here to keep you and your team informed whether these laws have been codified in your state or legislators are considering doing so.
What Are Clean Slate Laws?
A ‘Clean Slate’ law refers to state legislation passed to allow criminal records to be cleared or sealed from individual records if they stay crime-free for a specified duration. This means that those records don’t appear on background reports. However, not all expungements are automatic in all states, occasionally relying on the individual petitioning the court instead.
A notable exception to these laws occurs in states that have legalized the recreational selling of marijuana. Here, provisions may be put in place to seal non-violent cannabis-related convictions automatically.
How Do They Affect Employers?
Limiting information about applicants may worry some organizations from a risk management perspective, but it’s important not to let it deter hiring efforts. It is still possible to provide a safe workplace as many high-level and violent crimes are not eligible to be hidden or removed. Concerns of recidivism, while valid, should be tempered, as studies show that the risk for re-offense of expungement recipients is very low.
By removing that information from the equation, these laws make it easier for employers who find it difficult not to create unconscious bias when they see criminal records that typically would disqualify the individual from employment. This is also helpful in preventing backlash related to negligent hiring, as withheld criminal information can’t be used as an example of why the individual shouldn’t have been hired.
Clean Slate States
As of this writing (February 2023), ten states have passed clean slate laws. Click a state in the table below to view the associated bill:
|State||Year Signed Into Law|
If your state already has a clean slate law in place, it’s important to stay up to date on any changes and adjust your screening policy accordingly. Pay close attention to the legislation that enacted these regulations and any amendments applied, consulting your legal counsel if issues arise. If your state has not established these laws, keep an eye out for the introduction of such bills as campaigns are being run in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and Texas to further the adoption of programs like these.
Regardless of your company’s state, it’s important to remember that background screening is still crucial to effective onboarding. High-level crimes, those on the federal or international levels, and those linked to the National Sex Offender Registry will continue to be uncovered in any state.
For more information on sealed and expunged records, read Do Expunged Records Show Up on Background Checks?