Job application disclosure

Job interviews are pivotal moments in your career journey, providing opportunities to showcase your skills and qualifications.

Being open, honest and transparent during a job interview isn’t always easy, especially since most applicants want to showcase the best, most polished version of themselves during the process.

You might be wondering whether there’s a difference, legally speaking, between embellishing your past workplace experience and failing to disclose criminal convictions. The answer is more complicated than many people realize.

The Ban the Box Law

In an effort to make hiring practices fair, Minnesota passed a law preventing employers from requesting or requiring certain types of preemployment application information, like convictions or drug and alcohol tests. However, the rules change once you get past the pre-employment part of the process and enter into later parts of the hiring process.

For example, an employer can require you to take a drug test if they extend a conditional job offer and require every applicant who reaches that point in the process to take one. They can’t drug test some people who get an offer but not others.

Criminal Record

In Minnesota, employers are permitted to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history during the hiring process. However, they must adhere to strict guidelines outlined in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to ensure fair and nondiscriminatory employment practices.

For example, they don’t have the right to perform a pre-screening criminal background check without first receiving your permission. However, not granting permission is often viewed as a red flag for recruits or hiring managers.

Lying about your criminal record during an interview isn’t technically illegal in most circumstances, but if your employer does a background check (and in many cases they will), they may see convictions and withdraw an offer for employment or potentially have grounds for termination if you were hired.

Employers do have the right to terminate people for lying on their application even if having a criminal record would not have disqualified you from the position. If you know an employer will learn about past convictions, being honest and transparent is likely a more prudent interview approach.

Record Expungement

Some people with criminal records are eligible for expungement. This means the court seals some or all of your criminal record from the public – including employer background checks. Whether you’re eligible for full or partial criminal expungement depends on the severity of the charges, how long it’s been since your conviction and whether you can show the court you’ve made positive life changes that indicate you’re less likely to commit another crime.

If you’re frustrated by your criminal record preventing you from finding gainful employment, it’s likely in your best interest to consult with a Minneapolis–St. Paul attorney experienced in criminal expungement.

Marijuana Laws and Employment

In Minnesota, employers maintain the authority to implement drug testing policies for both job applicants and current employees, including screening for marijuana use. However, adherence to strict guidelines outlined in state and federal laws is imperative for fairness and legality. Employers must clearly communicate their drug testing policies, detailing the circumstances under which testing may occur and the types of tests utilized.

Consequences of Marijuana Use

Despite recreational marijuana’s newly legal status in Minnesota, employers can still choose not to hire individuals, or fire current workers, who test positive for marijuana, even if its use is lawful. This is particularly prevalent in industries where safety is a concern, such as transportation or healthcare. That being said, the policy must be consistent for all employees.

Federal regulations, such as those enforced by the Department of Transportation, mandate drug testing for certain positions and marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level.

Navigating the Interview Process with Confidence

  • Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your rights as enforced by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
  • Be Honest and Transparent: While you have the right to privacy, honesty and transparency are often beneficial during the interview process, especially if a background check will contradict statements made in an interview. Answer questions truthfully and accurately, but also know your rights regarding sensitive topics such as criminal history or medical conditions. If asked about your criminal record, for example, be forthcoming about convictions that are not sealed or expunged. Dishonesty can erode trust and credibility, potentially jeopardizing your chances of securing the job.
  • Seek Guidance if Needed: If you have concerns about a prospective employer’s hiring practices or questions about your rights, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from legal experts or advocacy organizations specializing in employment rights. They can provide valuable insights and support to help you navigate challenging situations and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the interview process.
  • Understand Company Policies: Take the time to familiarize yourself with the hiring policies and practices of the companies you’re applying to. Some employers may have specific protocols regarding criminal histories, background checks or drug testing. Knowing these policies can help you prepare appropriately and make informed decisions about where to seek employment.
  • Consider Context: When deciding what information to disclose during an interview, consider the context of the questions being asked and the requirements of the job. While certain information, such as criminal history, may be relevant to specific roles, other personal details may not be necessary for the hiring process. Use your judgment to determine what information is appropriate to share based on the nature of the position and the questions being asked.
  • Advocate for Your Rights: As a job seeker, you have the right to privacy and protection from discrimination. If you feel that your privacy rights have been violated or that you’ve been subjected to unfair treatment during the interview process, don’t hesitate to speak up and advocate for yourself.

We Can Connect You With a Minneapolis–St. Paul Employment Law or Civil Rights Attorney

Our referral counselors at the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) are dedicated to connecting people with experienced and reputable attorneys. Fill out the form on our website or call us at (612) 752-6699 to get started.