“Ban the Box” Set to Begin in Kansas City, Missouri on June 9

May 2018

In 2013, Kansas City, Missouri adopted an ordinance that eliminated any obligation of applicants for City positions to disclose criminal history and that required the City Manager to remove such questions from applications. That ordinance concluded by urging (but not requiring) “private employers to adopt fair hiring practices that encourage the rehabilitation of people with criminal records.” Hundreds of cities, including Kansas City, Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 30 states have adopted similar restrictions for public employers. On February 1, 2018, Kansas City, Missouri went one step further and passed Ordinance No. 180034, which places employment restrictions on private employers' locations in the City. This makes it the second city in Missouri (after Columbia in 2014) to “Ban the Box,” in which an applicant who had prior convictions was required to check the "box" in question. Eleven states, including Illinois, have similar limits on private employers.

Effective June 9, 2018, employers with locations in Kansas City may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until after it has been determined that the individual is qualified for the position, and only after the applicant has been interviewed. At that point, an employer may screen “all applicants who are within the final selection pool of candidates.” The ordinance applies to private employers that employ six or more employees, though it excludes local, state, and federal governmental entities. 

Additionally, employers may not base “hiring or promotional decisions” on criminal history, unless the employer can demonstrate that the decision was based on “all information available including consideration of the frequency, recentness, and severity of a criminal record and that the record was reasonably related to the duties and responsibilities of the position.” As a result, other than positions “where employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to local, state or federal law or regulation,” employers cannot maintain a policy that automatically rejects an applicant based upon criminal history.

Allegations of violations of the ordinance may be filed with the Kansas City Human Relations Department. Should probable cause of discrimination be found, a “conciliation” process would be initiated, aimed at removing current and future discriminatory practices. Should this fail, a hearing would follow, and employers could be liable for back pay and reinstatement, fines of up to $500.00, and possible imprisonment. Additionally, a business could have its license suspended for up to 30 days, with permanent revocation for three or more violations within a five-year period.

Prior to the effective date, Kansas City employers should evaluate their hiring practices and make necessary changes to their applications to remove any requirement to disclose prior criminal history for those positions that 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 also applies to promotional decisions.  

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