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Iowa Supreme Court makes ruling on Waterloo's ban the box ordinance
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Iowa Supreme Court makes ruling on Waterloo's ban the box ordinance

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Black Hawk County Courthouse.

WATERLOO – The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld part of the City of Waterloo’s “ban the box” ordinance, which was designed to prohibit employers from considering criminal records early in the hiring process.

The high court also struck down portions of the ordinance, passed as a way to provide people with criminal histories a chance at obtaining employment.

The City Council adopted Ordinance No. 5522, also known as the “fair chance initiative,” in November 2019.

Before it went into effect, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry took the city to court, arguing that the measure went against a 2017 state law that bars cities from adopting rules that “exceed or conflict with the requirements of federal or state law relating to ... hiring practices ... or other terms or conditions of employment."

A district court judge sided with the city in an April 2020 ruling, and the IABA appealed the decision.

In a ruling handed down Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld parts of the ordinance while striking down others.

What remained was language prohibiting the inquiry into criminal history on an application for businesses with 15 or more employees. It also retained language that prohibits employers inquiring into convictions, arrests and pending criminal charges during the application process and interview, up to the point the employer makes a conditional offer of employment.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down wording that barred employers from making adverse hiring decisions based on pending criminal charges that have yet to result in convictions, expunged or pardoned criminal charges and an applicant’s criminal record without a legitimate business reason.

Justice Christopher McDonald issued a separate opinion on the case.


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