Come November 4, Massachusetts will no longer allow employers to ask potential interview candidates to indicate on a preliminary written job application whether they have a criminal record. The new regulation comes as part of anti-crime reform package signed early this month by Gov. Deval Patrick.
The only employers excluded from the regulation are those that are barred by federal or state law from hiring an employee with a criminal conviction or filling a certain position with an ex-convict.
Beyond restricting employers from inquiring about prior criminal convictions during the written (pre-interview) application process, the law will reform the state's Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system and allow employers to query CORI's online database to do their due dilligence on prospective hires.
"Under the new law, all employers, licensing bodies, housing providers, and volunteer organizations will, for a fee, have access to a new database that lists only convictions or pending charges," reports The Boston Globe. "If there are no subsequent offenses, most felony convictions will disappear from the database 10 years after a sentence is served and misdemeanor convictions five years after that. Previously, felonies could be sealed after 15 years and misdemeanors after 10, but that has required a court order, which is rare. Convictions could show up indefinitely in the reports from private companies."
Murder and sexual offense convictions, however, can never be sealed. The CORI system will also not collect and store acquittals or continuance-without-a finding-rulings, according to Clive McFarlane, a columnist for the Worchester Telegram & Gazette. The CORI reforms, however, do not go into effect until February 6, 2012.
Previously only 3 to 5 percent of employers—mostly schools and nursing homes—had access to the CORI system; others had to rely on private background investigations, which often list charges and acquittals and sometimes are inaccurate, notes the Globe. The reform changes all that and will provide employers with a one-stop-shop to investigate whether a job applicant has a criminal past.