Focus on New Laws: Background Check Access for City Hiring and Licensing Authorities

July 25, 2022

The new law allows a local law enforcement department to disseminate full background check information to their city’s hiring and licensing authorities.

The 2022 Legislature passed a new law (Chapter 59) that authorizes a city or county’s law enforcement agency to disseminate criminal history data to either the hiring or licensing authority of the city or county requesting background checks for applicants, licensees, or current employees. This new law no longer requires the hiring or licensing authorities to obtain the full criminal history data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

The law was signed by Gov. Tim Walz with an effective date of Aug. 1.

Requirements of the law

The authorized law enforcement agency and the hiring or licensing authority must maintain the criminal history data securely and act consistently with Minnesota Statutes, section 364.05, which requires that a hiring or licensing authority notify the individual in writing if they deny an individual a position of public employment or disqualify from a license, solely or in part because of the individual’s prior conviction of a crime.

Previously, Minnesota Statutes, section 299C.72 could have been interpreted to require a local law enforcement department to only provide a “yes” or “no” response back to the requesting hiring official on whether a candidate passes the background check. The new law increases efficiency by removing the need for cities to use the BCA to obtain a full background check. It also helps ensure the hiring authority for the city has all the relevant information needed to decide whether to hire someone with a criminal history.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on background checks directs employers to consider the nature and gravity of the criminal offense or conduct, the time that has passed since the offense/conduct or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job being sought.

Legislation supported by cities

The League supported this legislation after hearing from city officials that the hiring authority is in the best position to determine whether an applicant’s past criminal history is relevant to the job they are seeking and to consider the other factors required by the EEOC guidance. For example, a conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) may be relevant to someone who is applying for a public works maintenance job, but not necessarily for someone who is going to work in the city’s finance department.

For more information on background checks, consult the League’s HR Reference Manual chapter on Hiring.

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