Ban the Box and other state laws effective Jan. 1

A so-called Ban the Box law, which prohibits employers from asking job applicants to check a box to indicate whether they’ve been convicted of a crime, and a series of other new state laws went into effect on Jan. 1.

Sponsored by St. Paul and Minneapolis Democratic lawmakers, the Ban the Box law does not prevent employers from weighing an applicant’s criminal history in hiring. However, it does require them to wait until an applicant has been picked for an interview or until a conditional job offer has been made before asking about it, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“This law offers the vast majority of individuals with a nonviolent criminal record a second chance at an opportunity for employment to better their lives,” Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said in a press release.

Ban the Box has been the law for public employers since 2009, according to the Human Rights department. The department will be holding a series of a webinars on the new law; the first will be for the health and human services profession on Jan. 23.

Radon testing disclosures

Another law that took effect on Jan. 1, sponsored in the House by Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, requires home sellers to disclose radon testing.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Radon Awareness Act requires home sellers to disclose whether their home has been tested for radon and, if so, the concentrations found and what had been done to mitigate radon in the home.

Radon tops the list of environmental causes of cancer deaths nationally, and it is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the Department of Health. Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soils.

Two in five Minnesota homes, the department said, has dangerous levels of radon. It can seep into homes through cracks or openings and can be revealed only by testing, according to the department.

“This law will help improve the health and safety of Minnesotans by informing home buyers about the harmful effects of radon gas at the point of sale,” said Dan Tranter, indoor air program supervisor for the Department of Health, in a press release.

Testing for radon takes only three to five days, according to the department. The winter season is the best time to test.

Testing kits are available at local health departments, hardware stores and test laboratories. For information on where to obtain a kit, visit the Department of Health website at www.health.state.mn.us or its radon information page at http://bit.ly/19YMbrJ.

Scrap yard security

In the area of public safety, new laws, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, require surveillance cameras at metal scrap yards, according to House Public Information Services.

As part of a larger law that went on the books in August, scrap vehicle operators must have surveillance cameras installed and maintained beginning Jan. 1. Cameras must be aligned to clearly photograph the face of sellers of scrapped vehicles who enter the location, according to House Information. Plus, the scrap dealer must photograph the seller’s vehicle and license plate.

The idea behind the law is to prevent stolen cars from quickly being scrapped, according to House Information.

Estate sale payments

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, and Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Richfield, sponsored legislation requiring that businesses conducting estate sales post a $20,000 surety bond. This is to ensure families receive payment, even if the estate sales business defaults, according to Slocum.

The law does not guarantee $20,000 from any given sales, she noted in a press release.

“It simply provides that amount of protection should anything happen throughout the estate sale process,” Slocum said.

 

Tim Budig can be reached at tim.budig@ecm-inc.com.

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