MN Employers Can No Longer Ask the Tough Question... Are You a F - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

MN Employers Can No Longer Ask the Tough Question... Are You a Felon?

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A new law took effect this month in Minnesota that will help convicted felons get back on their feet in the workforce. Felons across Minnesota no longer have to check the box on a job application that asks if they have a felony on their record. But what does that really mean? Valley News team's Eric Crest talks with a local employer who says it makes all the difference for the right candidate.

You can't get a job just anywhere with a felony on your record.

"In law enforcement I think in most instances you're not going to be considered no matter what the offense," say Sgt. Gail Wishmann of the Cass County Sheriff's office.

But for most employers it's a tough decision. Do you give a felon a shot at a job? Or is it better to play things safe and avoid them all together?

"There are quite a few people out here that have felonies from their past but their excellent employees," says Perry Lubbers of Trail Kind Industries in West Fargo.

At Trail King management decided that it's worth the risk. They won't hire just any felon. But they're willing to give the right candidate a chance.

"If we didn't consider that population we would be hurting even more than we are for people," says Ryan Erkenbrack the HR manager at Trail King.

"We've always given people a second chance here at Trail King. If people have a record we check it. Anytime we get an application we do our due diligence and background checks, and if people have a record we'll make notice of it. But we want to give people a second chance as well," says Lubbers.

Employers in North Dakota can still ask on the initial application process whether or not a potential employee has a criminal record. But on the Minnesota side, that question has been eliminated. Giving people looking for a foot in the door the chance to prove themselves.

"We've been thanked by people that have said, you know other people didn't want to give me a chance. But here I was able to succeed. So it's benefited both sides," explains Erkenbrack.

Minnesota joins the ranks of just nine other states that can't ask about felonies on a job application. Some law enforcement say it's tough to determine if that one question, weeds out some of the job applicants.

"Do people deserve that second chance? Should one mistake, even if it was a felony hold you back from employment? I don't know," adds Sgt. Wishmann who says employers are going to have to make the call.

There are incentives for hiring felons. But not everywhere. The work opportunity tax credit program expired on December 31st in North Dakota. But for Minnesota businesses that give felons another shot in the workplace, there are tax incentives. We've included a link at valleynewslive.com just click on the hot button on our homepage.

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