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Monday, May 20, 2019

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Massachusetts adds provisions to its 'ban-the-box' law and cites employers for non-compliance

Massachusetts adds provisions to its 'ban-the-box' law and cites employers for non-compliance

The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office recently cited 21 employers for violating ban-the-box law on their paper applications. Four employers were fined $5,000, with the remaining 17 issued letters that ordered them to comply with ban the box by removing questions about criminal records from their applications.

A decade ago, Massachusetts enacted reforms to its criminal offender record information (CORI) system. One of the changes, called "ban the box," outlawed the practice of inquiring about a job candidate's criminal background via a checkbox found on employment applications.

As ban the box sweeps the nation in states including Washington and California, Massachusetts continues to tweak its law with provisions that restrict employers from inquiring about certain aspects of an applicant's background. Beginning in October, Massachusetts employers will face further prohibitions in their ability to use a hire's criminal history for background screening.

Under the new law, the time period for disclosure of misdemeanor convictions will be reduced from five years to three years, meaning employers won't be given notice of misdemeanor convictions older than three years. Additionally, employers can no long ask about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.

Updates on the law are expected to be enforced in step with current regulations. For example, Massachusetts' employers may not inquire about first offenses for misdemeanors including disturbance of the peace, simple assault and minor traffic violations.

Employers in Massachusetts - along with organizations nationwide that hire within the state - should immediately review job applications with their legal counsel and make sure they are following all state mandates. Employees involved in the hiring process should be trained on what questions are appropriate during interviews, as well as any other facets of hiring that revolve around criminal records. 

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