In the iconic 1960s folk song Alice’s Restaurant, folk singer Arlo Guthrie is about to be drafted when a military recruiter asks, “Have you ever been arrested?” The question provokes a detailed retelling of Guthrie’s arrest for littering one Thanksgiving in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Come November, most Massachusetts employers will no longer be able to ask prospective employees about their criminal histories – at least on job applications. The new Massachusetts criminal records reform law prohibits employers from asking questions on an “initial, written application form” about an applicant’s “criminal offender record information,” which includes criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration.
That means you have to replace your employment application if it contains any language related to criminal history, such as:
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If yes, give dates and details of conviction.
Have you been convicted of a misdemeanor within the past five years other than a first conviction for any of the following misdemeanors: drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbance of the peace?
These questions have been legal and commonplace on Massachusetts employment applications for years, but the rules will change when the new law takes effect in November.
Governor Patrick signed the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform on August 6. The provision governing employment applications amends a portion of the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law that allowed questions about felony convictions and about misdemeanor convictions not protected from disclosure.
The only exceptions to the initial job application requirements in the CORI reform law are for (1) positions for which a federal or state law, regulation, or accreditation disqualifies an applicant based on a conviction; or (2) employers who are subject to an obligation under a federal or state law or regulation not to employ persons who have been convicted.
The CORI reform law creates many additional questions for employers regarding the hiring process. At this time, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security is charged with creating rules and regulations on CORI reform, which will help to answer many outstanding questions. Stay tuned for additional detailed information and guidance.
Please call AIM’s HR Hotline at 800-470-6277 with questions about the new criminal records law. AIM also offers legally compliant job applications customized with your company logo.