“Ban the Box” Set to Apply to Employers in the City of St. Louis

January 2020

Joining Kansas City, Missouri and other jurisdictions nationwide, the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously passed an Ordinance severely restricting criminal-history inquiries in the hiring process. Beginning January 1, 2021, all employers (1) located within the City of St. Louis, (2) with 10 or more employees will be prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until after an applicant is determined to be otherwise qualified for the position and has been interviewed. See our May 2018 alert on Kansas City's similar prohibition.

Once the law takes effect, such employers may not do any of the following:

  • Base a hiring or promotional decision on a job applicant’s criminal history or sentence, unless (1) the history is reasonably related to or bears upon the duties and responsibilities of the job position, and (2) the employer can demonstrate that the decision is based on all available information including frequency, recentness, and severity of the criminal history.
  • Inquire about an applicant’s criminal history, until after an applicant (1) is determined to be otherwise qualified, and (2) has been interviewed for the position.
  • Publish job advertisements or put forth any job application that includes statements excluding applicants based on criminal history.
  • Ask about or require applicants to make disclosures about their criminal history on an initial job application form, or seek out publicly available information about an applicant’s criminal history.

Employers who are hiring for positions where federal or state laws and regulations or City Ordinances prohibit employers from employing individuals with certain criminal histories are permitted to publish job advertisements or put forth applications that exclude applicants based on criminal history, are permitted to ask applicants about their criminal history on a job application, and are permitted to seek out all publicly available information on an applicant’s criminal history. All employers are also permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal history if all applicants in a final selection pool from which the position will be filled are asked.

Any alleged violation of the Ordinance will be referred to and investigated by the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency for the City of St. Louis. Violations can then be recommended to the Office of the License Collector for employer compliance. Penalties for violating the Ordinance range from a warning to a revocation of an employer’s business license. Employers could also potentially be assessed civil penalties to be determined by the Office of the License Collector at a later time. It is also possible that employees or rejected applicants could attempt to cite a violation of the Ordinance as evidence in support of other employment-related claims.

Employers in the City of St. Louis should evaluate their hiring practices and make necessary changes to their applications to remove any requirement to disclose prior criminal history for those positions the Ordinance addresses. Employers should also modify policies concerning the timing of inquiries regarding criminal history, as such inquiries can be made only after interviews have been completed and must be directed at all applicants within the final selection pool. Finally, employers should be mindful that the Ordinance applies to promotional decisions as well as to new applicants. 

Employers who have questions regarding the new ordinance or similar ordinances in other municipalities might wish to contact our Labor and Employment Practice Group. We are ready to assist with understanding how to revise a business's employment practices to comply with these ordinances.