An attempt to change employment practices in private businesses to give ex-felons a better chance to be considered for jobs was passed with bipartisan support in the Minnesota Senate on Saturday.

Sometimes called "ban the box," because it would eliminate the are-you-a-felon box on most employment applications, the bill would delay questions about criminal histories until an applicant is granted an interview or made a conditional job offer. It passed the Senate 44-16 vote and its sponsor, Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, said he believes it will have similar success in the House.

The bill essentially extends to private employers the law that now applies to public employers. It would not require private employers to hire anyone, but it is designed to give people who have rebuilt their lives a better chance to explain their past to prospective employers.

Champion said the bill does not prohibit employers who are prohibited by law from hiring certain offenders -- such as nursing homes and hospitals -- from continuing to state that on their job applications. He also accepted an amendment that clarified that the bill does not give rejected applicants a cause of action to sue the company that turned them down.


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