Iowa Enacts Negligent Hiring Protections

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On April 17, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF 650 into law which provides protections for employers from negligent hiring lawsuits. The law takes effect July 1, 2019.

What HF 650 Entails

HF 650 limits private employer liability for negligent hiring lawsuits by prohibiting a cause of action from being brought based on solely on the fact the individual was convicted of a public offense (as defined in the law).
However, there are limitations to this protection. Notably, the law does not preclude a cause of action from being filed based on:
  • Evidence that the employee was convicted of a public offense and the employer knew or should have known about the conviction, and
  • If the offense was committed while performing duties substantially similar to the position being filled taking into consideration factors including: the nature and seriousness of the offense, the extent and nature of the individual’s prior criminal history, the age of the individual when the offense was committed, and the amount of time elapsed since the last criminal activity.
The law also outlines several specific offense types, such as murder in the first degree, that do not afford the employer protections from negligent hiring suits. Finally, the law does not apply in suits concerning the misuse of funds or property of an individual other than the employer if the employee had been previously convicted of a related crime and was hired to perform a fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the employer.
Iowa’s effort is part of an ongoing national trend related to criminal justice reform. This type of law is one way to encourage employers to take a chance on hiring individuals with a prior criminal history. Employers should review the law with qualified legal counsel to determine what impact, if any, it may have on their hiring process.

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