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Reduced Employer Access to Criminal Records Harms Ex-Offenders

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Nov 13, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Update: The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill last week that will narrow employer access to the criminal records of job applicants. AIM believes such restrictions will hurt the very ex-offenders they are designed to help. 

It also seeks to expunge some offenders’ criminal records. Both the House and Senate bills would allow convictions to be sealed after seven years for a felony and three years for a misdemeanor, down from 10 and five years today.

The House bill would also allow someone to seal a conviction for resisting arrest, which currently cannot be sealed.

The House bill expands the ability for someone who had a record sealed to be able to say he has no record in applications for housing or professional licenses.

The House and the Senate will next convene a committee of conference to negotiate the differences in the two pieces of legislation and then send it to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

AIM told members of the state House of Representatives this morning that  the proposed narrowing of employer access to the criminal records of job applicants will reduce employment opportunities for former offenders.

ScalesofJusticeVerySmall.jpgAIM is concerned about language in a criminal justice reform to be debated today that would make access to information through the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) more difficult by sealing records and limiting access.

AIM believes the changes would harm the very people those the measure is designed to help.  Without access, employers are left without relevant information about potential hiring decisions. Restricting an employer’s access to information has been shown to hinder job applicants and employer’s ability to maintain a safe workplace. 

The commonwealth’s largest employer association has provided feedback in a number of ways during the current legislative session. AIM sent letters to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on April 28, 2017 and on July 17, 2017, and also hosted a briefing on this topic with the legislative sponsor and AIM members.

AIM appreciates that those and other conversations resulted in the inclusion of a negligent-hiring provision contained in SECTION 87 subsection 100S of the proposed reform bill.  AIM is also supportive of a provision that would enable the commonwealth to move towards fingerprinting and exchanging data with the National Criminal Information Center (NCIS) to ensure that records are accurate and connected to the correct person.

The Massachusetts Senate approved its own version of criminal justice reform on October 26.

AIM is concerned about the following provisions:

Sections 81-86 and 87: Sealing and Expungement of a Criminal Record: As proposed, the language would reduce the wait time to seal a misdemeanor conviction from five years to three years and a felony conviction from 10 years to seven years.  To address this AIM supports:

  • Amendment #50 to remove sealing and expungement provisions
  • Amendment #132 to allow employers that have employees with access to financial information, cash instruments and vulnerable populations to retain access to five years of misdemeanors and 10 years for felony convictions as currently provided under law
  • Amendment #134, to provide employers with six months to make changes to job applications, internal policies and to conduct training for hiring managers

Section 84 and 87 Job Applications: This language requires employers to amend job applications to acknowledge the candidate’s proposed rights under the expungement provision.  Employers would be required to add the language from section 84 and section 87, which contains similar language for job applications.  To address this AIM supports:

  • Amendment #130 and #131, to retain currently proposed language into one paragraph to address a candidate’s rights regarding sealing and expungement.
  • Amendment #120, to provide employers with six months to a year to fully implement changes in job applications, internal policy documents and to conduct training for hiring managers.

AIM supports amendment #50 to strike the language and amendment #118, which would provide for six months for employers to be in compliance and conduct training for hiring managers.

Sections 49-56, 62: Felony Thresholds: This language will make it challenging for employers to address growing concerns with larceny and ongoing threats related to personal information and credit card fraud.  AIM supports amendment #126, which would strike these provisions.

Takeaways:

 

 

Topics: Employment Law, CORI, Massachusetts House of Representatives

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