SANTA FE – It is officially illegal in New Mexico for private employers to ask about a person’s criminal history on an initial job application, although companies still can discuss prior arrests or convictions later in the hiring process.
Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said the new law went into effect Friday under oversight of the state Human Rights Bureau.
State agencies already leave out criminal history questions on initial employment applications.
Democratic state Sen. Bill O’Neill and Republican Rep. Alonzo Baldonado sponsored the legislation in an effort to give formerly incarcerated residents access to face-to-face interviews and the opportunity to provide for themselves and family.
“In the past, what has happened in a lot of places around the United States is that companies then use that to just discard people right away,” said Bill McCamley, New Mexico Secretary of Workforce Solutions, in a statement.
On paper or online, the section asking about criminal history will no longer be there.
“This now includes every single employer in the state; schools, private businesses, universities, national labs, everybody,” McCamley said.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other backers of the law — better known as “Ban the Box” legislation — said it levels the playing field for nearly 70 million Americans with an arrest or conviction history.
“People … coming out of prison, most of these folks want a chance to do better in life, but in order to get that they have to be able to get a job,” McCamley said.
Robert Steinberg of Stone Mountain Bead Gallery in Nob Hill told KOAT in a news report that the box on the application is irrelevant.
“As far as the checking a box for whether someone has a criminal history, I guess as long as you can bring it up in an interview, the application form wouldn’t matter that much,” Steinberg said.
Thirty-five states and more than 150 cities and counties across the nation have adopted some form of “Ban the Box.” Twelve states, now including New Mexico, have also mandated the removal of conviction history questions for private employers.