August 10, 2022

Volume XII, Number 222

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August 09, 2022

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August 08, 2022

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Des Moines Passes ‘Ban the Box’ Law Prohibiting Criminal Inquiries on Job Applications

On November 15, 2021, the city of Des Moines, Iowa, passed a “ban-the-box” law that will limit employer inquiries and background checks into an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment. Though the law was passed and has already taken effect, it has received little fanfare and media attention despite its implications for employers.

The Des Moines city council unanimously passed the ordinance amending its municipal code to make it “illegal and discriminatory” for employers to: (1) include criminal history inquiries on an application, and (2) inquire into criminal history or conduct criminal background checks before a conditional offer of employment.

Under the law, employers may not:

  • Include a criminal record inquiry on an employment application;

  • Inquire into or make an individual disclose any convictions, arrests, or pending criminal charges during the application process, including during an interview.

The law defines the “application process” as beginning when the applicant inquires about the employment being sought and ends when the employer extends a conditional offer of employment. However, the law allows an employer to discuss the criminal record of an applicant if it is voluntarily disclosed by the applicant at an interview.

Additionally, employers are required to comply with all federal and state requirements relating to (1) authorizations for background checks, (2) the pre-adverse and adverse action process, and (3) the use of criminal record information.

A growing number of states and cities have passed ban-the-box laws in recent years aimed at encouraging employers to assess job applicants on qualifications and not a criminal record before denying an offer of employment.

The Des Moines law comes after the Iowa Supreme Court, in June 2021, upheld a provision of a city ordinance in Waterloo, Iowa banning employers from asking about criminal records on employment applications, finding the provision did not conflict with state law.

Key Takeaways

Private employers in Des Moines may want to review their application and hiring processes to ensure they are not engaging in criminal history inquiries or criminal background checks until after a conditional offer of employment.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 166
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About this Author

Gustavo Suarez, Gus, Employment Law Attorney, counseling, background checks, EEOC, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm
Of Counsel

Gustavo (“Gus”) Suárez assists employers with a broad range of employment law issues, including counseling on federal and state background check and e-signature law; investigating and defending EEOC charges; advising on immigration compliance issues (including I-9 training and internal audits); and defending Title VII, defamation, and breach of contract lawsuits against employers.

Gus regularly speaks at employment conferences on topics like background check law, I-9 compliance, and the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act.

864-271-1300
Christine Townsend, of counsel, Milwaukee
of Counsel

Christine counsels her clients on a full range of labor and employment issues. She has frequently represented employers in litigation, successfully obtaining preliminary injunctions in matters related to restrictive covenants and trade secrets. She also regularly advises clients on the legal aspects of personnel decisions, employment policies, and employment agreements.

She began her legal career as a litigator in the Intellectual Property department of a national firm’s Chicago office. Christine continued her career in the labor and employment...

414-239-6400
Senior Marketing Counsel

In the Senior Marketing Counsel role, Zachary develops strategy for the firm’s blog and other content. He serves as a lead writer for articles and blog posts for publication on the firm’s website both individually and in consultation with firm attorneys. He also works closely with the Client Services department and firm attorneys to develop relevant content, including through use of webinars, publications, blogs, podcasts, and graphics.

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Zachary served as a Senior Reporter for Law360, a leading online legal news publication, covering the sports and...

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