The Massachusetts Legislature passed a conference committee report Saturday that overhauls the Criminal Offender Register Information (CORI) system used by employers to access the criminal histories of job applicants. AIM urges Governor Deval Patrick to sign the legislation, which balances the needs of employers and offenders on what has been a complex and contentious issue.
The CORI debate began three years ago when Governor Patrick announced a reform proposal that drew immediate criticism from employers concerned about their ability to maintain the safety of customers and employees in the workplace. AIM has since worked with employers and state policymakers to develop an approach that maintains job opportunities for ex-offenders but also protects the ability of employers to make informed hiring decisions.
The final CORI reform contains numerous elements suggested by AIM, including one to provide negligent-hiring protection for employers relying on the accuracy of the Commonwealth's CORI system.
Employers know that the CORI system is broken. Budget cuts have eroded the reliability, accuracy and security of the system, which can take up to six weeks to fulfill one record request from an employer. A 2009 report by State Auditor Joseph DeNucci detailed concerns with CORI that ranged from incomplete records or ones that were not always updated to reflect felony convictions, such as murder or failure to register as a sex offender.
The legislation currently before the governor provides critical technology upgrades required to provide employers with instantaneous access to records. The bill also changes the manner in which employers utilize background checks during the hiring process.
Key CORI reform provisions that AIM supports:
- Accuracy, reliability and security of records though IT upgrades: An updated database and a secure Internet portal ensure immediate access to CORI information and allows officials to validate accurate data and correct inaccurate data. The system will also protect personal information contained within these records as required by state current statute, M.G.L. 93H and 93I, defining the Commonwealth’s data security laws.
- Negligent hiring protection: No employer shall be liable for discriminatory employment practices for the failure to hire a person on the basis of criminal offender record information that contains erroneous information requested and received from CORI. The liability protection is available to employers who make a hiring decision within 90 days of obtaining the criminal offender record information.
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