Employee rights measures easily pass NH House

Ban on asking criminal or salary history, new rules for temp agencies head to Senate

The New Hampshire House passed three bills last week expanding the rights of employees.

Under the bills, employers wouldn’t be able to ask employees about their criminal or salary history on an application and temporary employment firms would be required to disclose more information to workers about their assignment.

The increased requirements were among the reasons the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire called a press conference last week to complain about what it sees as an anti-business turn that the Legislature has taken since Democrats took control of both houses.

The House passed all of the bills by comfortable margins.

It approved House Bill 253 – the “ban the box bill” – by a vote of 213-142. The box in this case is a standard question on an application: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Under the bill, an employer would be under no obligation to hire a convicted felon, but the idea, would allow “applicants, who are otherwise qualified, an opportunity to discuss any prior record and what they’ve done toward their rehabilitation with the employer,” according to Rep. Michael Cahill, D-Newmarket in his written recommendation to pass the bill,

Opponents said they were actually worried about applicants who might have to go through an uncomfortable interview process with an employer who doesn’t want to hire them anyway.

“Not being able to dispose of the criminal issue up front is frustrating and costs the employer and the applicant time and money,” said Rep. Andrew Renzullo, R-Hudson.

Both sides made similar arguments on HB 211, which would treat family history the same way.

With the bill, “the employee will consider the experience and knowledge of the applicant as factors determining compensation,” wrote Rep Manny Espitia, D-Nashua.

But Rep. Jonathan Mackie, R-Meredith, argued that the bill “removes an important tool for an employer to assess a potential employee. It can also be a negative for the potential employee. When an employer sees that an employee has been paid more than they were intending to offer, a higher offer is often made. This is because they see that previous employers have valued the employee highly.”

“Business owners know what they need to know for what’s best for their business,” said Rep. Brian Seaworth, R-Pembroke. The bill passed, 213-139.

HB 272 would require that a temp agency tell employers a long list of things, including where they are going for a job, how much they are going to get paid and where they go to report an injury or a problem. Supporters argued that it only puts into law what many temporary agencies practice, argued supporters.

Seaworth also opposed this one.

“While such notices are already industry best practice, mandating these procedures may cause an undue expense and burden on an employer,” he said. “This is a significant industry in New Hampshire that could take their business outside of the state. The bill passed, 204-140.

All of the bills will next go to the Senate, where they also have a good chance of passage. Whether Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will sign them, however, is another matter.

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