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Asking about a job applicant’s criminal history

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2023 | Employment Law

Any business owner knows the importance of carefully evaluating potential hires. Employees are often the “face” of a business and an essential part of the business’s success.

While many employers understandably want to know about a potential hire’s criminal history, there are laws in Oregon law regulating when in the application process an employer can ask about an applicant’s criminal history.

Oregon’s Ban the Box law

Under Oregon’s “Ban the Box” law, an employer cannot ask about a prospective employee’s criminal history on a job application or before an initial interview. If an employer does not intend to conduct interviews, the employer cannot ask about criminal history until after extending a conditional job offer.

For employers based within the City of Portland, there is a city ordinance prohibiting inquiry into an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been extended. In addition, an employer in Portland can only use criminal history to rescind a conditional job offer after making a good-faith determination that the applicant’s crime is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

The Portland ordinance applies only to employers in Portland, so employers located outside of Portland—including employers in Sherwood—can ask about criminal history any time after an initial interview.

Background checks

The Ban the Box laws do not prohibit employers from considering an applicant’s criminal history in making final hiring decisions. Nor do these laws prohibit background checks after the initial interview (or after extending a conditional job offer for employers in Portland).

The hiring process

All businesses should carefully consider their hiring policies to ensure compliance with laws like Ban the Box. Failure to comply with the law can result in litigation or monetary penalties, as well as potential harm to your business’s reputation.

An experienced attorney can assist in developing or refining hiring policies to comply with Oregon law.