Like lighthouses dotting the coast of Maine, “Fair Chance” laws throughout the country provide a guiding light to prevent employers from running into rocky compliance issues. Maine is one of the latest states to pass this type of law. “An Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment,” or Maine LD 1167, was signed by Governor Janet Mills on July 6, 2021. The law will be effective on October 18, 2021.
The state of Maine’s new law prohibits employers in the state (with some exceptions) from asking about criminal history record information in certain situations. Let’s better understand more about Maine’s new restrictions.
Application & Job Posting Restrictions
Like many other ban the box-style laws across the country, Maine’s law makes it illegal for employers to request criminal history record information on initial application forms. But the state’s restrictions go beyond the basics.
Maine’s law states that employers cannot make statements on initial application forms, advertisements, or specify, prior to determining a candidate is otherwise qualified for the job, that a person with a criminal history cannot apply or will not be considered for a job.
The state has outlined situations where employers may be exempt from these restrictions, including:
- When a position is one where federal or state law, regulation or rule creates a mandatory or presumptive disqualification for one or more types of criminal offenses. In this case, questions and statements on the initial application form are limited to the specific criminal offense(s) that creates the disqualification.
- When an employer is obligated under federal or state law, regulation or rule not to employ a person who has been convicted of one or more types of criminal offenses. In this case, questions and statements are limited to the specific criminal offense(s) that creates the obligation.
In many cases, after the initial application, Maine employers have more freedom. An employer may ask a candidate about criminal history record information during an interview or once the candidate has been otherwise determined to be qualified for the job.
For employers that ask a candidate whether they have been convicted of a crime, Maine requires them to give candidates more room than just answering “yes” or “no” Employers must give candidates the chance to explain the information and circumstances regarding any convictions, including post-conviction rehabilitation.
As we approach fall, and the effective date of this new law, employers in Maine may want to review their applications, job postings, and more to make sure they align with the new requirements. Violations could start to add up for employers that don’t comply. Employers may be subject to penalties between $100 – $500 for each violation of the law.
If you have questions about how this law may impact your hiring process, you should work with your legal counsel.