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What does Maryland's new "ban the box" law actually do?

Updated: Jul 10, 2021


woman fills out a job application compliant with Maryland's new ban the box law prohibiting employers from asking about criminal history

As of February 29, 2020, Maryland employers may no longer ask about an individual's criminal record prior to their first in-person interview.


The Maryland Criminal Records Screening Act (better known as the Maryland “ban the box” law) only applies to employers with at least 15 or more employees (just like Title 20, Maryland's workplace race discrimination law). But what exactly is a "criminal record?" According to Maryland's ban the box law, a criminal record is:


  • an arrest;

  • a plea or verdict of guilty;

  • a plea of nolo contendere (i.e., no contest);

  • the marking of a charge “STET” on the docket (i.e., no further prosecution);

  • a disposition of probation before judgment; or,

  • a disposition of not criminally responsible.


In addition to the statewide law, ban the box laws were already on the books in Prince George's County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City. These laws were not extinguished by the statewide law, so they remain enforceable in those counties.


If a Maryland employer violates the new law, Maryland's Commissioner of Labor and Industry may assess a civil penalty of up to $300 for each applicant or employee as to whom there was a violation. For now, the law does not allow individuals to sue employers who violate the law.


Looking beyond Maryland, there has been progress in recent months towards a national ban the box law. On March 3, 2021, Reps. Maxine Waters and David Trone (Democrat, Maryland) introduced the Workforce Justice Act, which would give states three years to remove from private-sector employment applications the question that asks job seekers to disclose criminal history, or risk losing funding for criminal justice programs. Maryland's own Rep. Trone had to say about the proposed law,


"Banning the box results in higher retention rates and more dependable employees, and it's just the right thing to do. Right now, and especially during this economic crisis, we should ensure that all Americans, regardless of their criminal history, have access to good, well-paying jobs."

According to the National Employment Law Project, 36 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted ban-the-box policies, and a handful of states have pending legislation on the issue. So, what's the bottom line? All but the smallest Maryland employers need to ensure that they're complying with the new law, and not inquire into an applicant's criminal history until the first in-person interview.


If you have questions about Maryland's new ban the box law, or need a free, confidential consultation with a Maryland employment lawyer, contact us today.