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Ban-the-Box: New Maryland Law Limits Employer’s Inquiries

Ever wonder what you can and cannot ask a job applicant? Certain questions – such as family planning and disability status – are against the law in all states. However, certain issues, such as a potential employee’s criminal history, are not prohibited federally but limited on a state or local basis.

Effective on February 29, Maryland’s new state law dictates that employers with 15 or more total employees are prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal history before the first interview. This law, commonly known as “ban-the-box” therefore prevents employers from asking criminal background-related questions on the initial application for a position. It does not, however, prevent employers from asking about criminal histories or running criminal background checks after the first interview.

It should be noted that Maryland’s state law provides less constraints on employers than the local Baltimore, Prince George, and Montgomery County ban-the-box laws. The District of Columbia similarly places more restrictions on employers’ inquiries into applicants’ criminal histories. As such, I recommend checking the jurisdiction where an employee works (even if it is telework) to verify what you can and cannot inquire about. Making sure that a policy meets the most-restrictive jurisdiction (rather than the least restrictive) will ensure compliance and reduce liability.


Theodora Stringham assists individuals, businesses, and organizations with growing successfully while minimizing liability. Focusing on real estate and personnel needs, Ms. Stringham executes sustainable plans for real estate development and employee matters. She provides comprehensive representation for everyday growth issues, including, but not limited to, re-zonings, site plan approvals, eminent domain/valuation concerns, employment discrimination, and disciplinary issues. Ms. Stringham’s scope of representation ranges from identifying potential liability and providing counseling/trainings, all the way through representation at trial.







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