The state of Rhode Island has enacted a “Ban the Box” law – Senate Bill 357 (SB 357) – that will prohibit inquiries on employment applications regarding prior criminal convictions except when federal or state law specifically disqualifies a person from employment due to a prior conviction or authorizes such inquiries. The full text of SB 357 – which was signed by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee on July 16, 2013 and will take effect on January 1, 2014 – is available at http://openstates.org/ri/bills/2013/SB357/.
SB 357 amends Chapter 28-5 of the State of Rhode Island General Laws entitled “Fair Employment Practices” and applies to both public and private employers in Rhode Island employing four or more individuals or any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer. Speciﬁcally, SB 357 will make it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer in the state to inquire about whether an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime before the ﬁrst interview with the following exceptions:
- If the application is for law enforcement agency positions or positions related to law enforcement agencies;
- If a federal or state law or regulation creates a mandatory or presumptive disqualification from employment based on a person’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of 1 those offenses; or
- If a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required for the position for which the applicant is seeking employment and his or her conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of those offenses.
Rhode Island becomes the latest state to join the growing “Ban the Box” movement. According to an April 2013 Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), more than 50 cities and counties as well as ten states in the U.S. have already adopted “Ban the Box” reforms. The Resource Guide from NELP – a non-profit organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers – is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/495bf1d813cadb030d_qxm6b9zbt.pdf.
The “Ban the Box” movement is one of the ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2013’ selected by Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). The complete list of the ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2013’ is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends-for-2013.php.
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