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Employment Law Alert: In Maryland, Asking About an Applicant’s Criminal Record Could Cost You

February 27, 2020

Last month, the Maryland General Assembly voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the “ban the box” bill. Maryland is the latest to join the “ban the box” movement, effectively prohibiting Maryland employers with 15 or more full-time employees from asking questions about an applicant’s criminal record on their employment applications and before the first in-person interviews. Maryland’s ban the box law will become effective on February 29, 2020.

Maryland employers are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s “criminal record” or criminal accusations before the first in-person interview, but may inquire during the first in-person interview. The law defines “criminal record” as an arrest, guilty plea or verdict or a nolo contendere plea; a disposition of probation before judgment; a disposition of “not criminally responsible”; or a marking of a charge “stet” on the docket. The Law also provides exceptions for employers if, a) the employer services or cares for vulnerable adults or minors, or b) another federal or state law requires or authorizes the employer to inquire about an applicant’s criminal record.

Notably, the Law does not preempt local jurisdictions from enacting more restrictive laws regarding pre-employment inquiries of applicants’ criminal histories. In fact, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County already have similar laws. In Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, covered employers are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until the first interview. Baltimore City’s law goes one step further, prohibiting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s record until after a conditional offer of employment is made.  

There are significant penalties for employers who do not comply, as the Law permits civil penalties of up to $300 per violation. Moreover, employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against applicants or employees who allege violations of the Law.

In light of this new requirement, employers should immediately review their employment applications to ensure compliance. If you have questions about this law or need a legal review of your employment application, please contact a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group or the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work.



Meredith “Merry” Campbell

Gregory D. Grant

Joy C. Einstein




The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.