New Massachusetts Law Prohibits Employers from Inquiring About Criminal Convictions on Initial Job Applications

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Starting November 4, 2010, employers in Massachusetts will no longer be able to ask about convictions on “initial” job applications after Governor Deval Patrick signed into law new legislation prohibiting employers from asking questions on initial written job applications about criminal offender record information, which includes criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration.

The new law overhauls the Commonwealth’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law and contains several provisions that will affect the way employers use the criminal histories of prospective and current employees and impact Massachusetts employers performing criminal background checks on job applicants and employees.

According to a news alert from Sayfarth & Shaw, while the new law does not prevent employers from obtaining criminal histories of job applicants or employees contained in the CORI database, under the CORI reform law those records will no longer contain:

  • Felony convictions closed for more than ten years, whether convictions occurred more than ten years ago or individuals were released more than ten years ago.
  • Misdemeanor convictions closed for more than five years.

In addition, the news alert indicates the new law also includes the following provisions:

  • Employers that decide not to hire applicants or take adverse actions based on criminal histories in CORI reports must first give applicants copies of the reports.
  • Employers conducting five (5) or more criminal background checks per year must maintain a written criminal offender record information policy.
  • Employers are prohibited from maintaining CORI records of former employees or unsuccessful job applicants for more than seven years from the last date of employment or from the date of the decision not to hire the job applicant.

As for effective dates for the CORI reform law, the initial application provision which restricts questions by employers about criminal history on initial written job applications will take effect on November 4, 2010. Employers who continue to ask questions on initial written applications about felony or misdemeanor convictions after that date may be subject to liability under the new law, according to the news alert. The other provisions described regarding the new law do not take effect until February 6, 2012.

For more information about employment background checks, and the latest legal updates, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter256

http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/house/185/ht01pdf/ht01416.pdf

http://www.seyfarth.com/dir_docs/news_item/8795eabd-0b60-47f6-9164-a58c9faf0d7a_documentupload.pdf