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Waterloo, Iowa: The First Iowa Jurisdiction to “Ban the Box”

The “ban the box” movement – featuring laws that often prevent employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history early in the hiring process – continues to diffuse rapidly at state and local governments. We have previously discussed recent ban the box laws passed in Colorado and Columbia, SC, as well as a proposed law in St. Louis, MO.

Continuing this prevalent trend, the city of Waterloo, Iowa has recently passed its ban the box ordinance.

Effective July 1, 2020, the law states the following:

      • In connection with the employment of any person, it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to include a criminal record inquiry on any application. It shall further be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer who employs fifteen or more persons, but not private schools providing a regular course of instruction for any part of kindergarten through high school education, to engage in the following activity:
        • To make any inquiry regarding, or to require any person to disclose or reveal, any convictions, arrests, or pending criminal charges during the application process, including but not limited to any interview. The application process shall begin when the applicant inquires about the employment being sought and shall end when an employer has extended a conditional offer of employment to the applicant. If the applicant voluntarily discloses any information regarding his or her criminal record at the interview, the employer may discuss the criminal record disclosed by the applicant.
        • To make an adverse hiring decision based solely on the applicant’s record of arrests or pending criminal charges that have not yet resulted in a conviction.
          To make an adverse hiring decision based on any criminal records which have been lawfully erased or expunged, which are the subject of an executive pardon, or which were otherwise legally nullified.
        • To make an adverse hiring decision based on an applicant’s criminal record without a legitimate business reason.

Waterloo’s new ordinance applies to employers who regularly employ one or more persons within the City of Waterloo. It does not apply to the United States government, the State of Iowa, or any state or federal political subdivisions (except, of course, the City of Waterloo). Employers who are required by federal or state law or regulation to make a criminal record inquiry on an employment application are also exempt under this municipal ordinance.

To read the full text of the new ordinance, click here. In the Table of Contents, go to “ORDINANCES PENDING CODIFICATION” then “UNFAIR USE OF CRIMINAL RECORD.”

Waterloo’s new ban the box law marks the first time an Iowa jurisdiction has passed an ordinance of this kind and reflects how these new laws are quickly expanding to many different states, counties, and cities.

Verified Credentials will continue to monitor and will attempt to detail any updates to the ordinance that may occur before it becomes effective in July 2020. With the rapidly changing ban the box landscape, it may be a good idea to speak with your legal counsel to make sure your background screening policies comply with all applicable laws.

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