On August 6, 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a comprehensive bill that overhauls the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system used by many employers to access the criminal histories of job applicants and employees. The new law will provide employers with access to criminal records through an online database, while simultaneously restricting the information available and imposing other requirements on employers.
Effective November 4, 2010, employers will be prohibited from requesting criminal history information on any "initial written employment application." Exempt from this provision are employers who (1) are barred by federal or state law from hiring individuals convicted of certain crimes, or (2) seek to fill positions for which conviction constitutes a disqualification under federal or state law. The law does not address whether employers can make written requests for criminal history information subsequent to an applicant's completion of an initial application form.
In addition, the following provisions of the law take effect May 4, 2012:
The law protects from liability employers who rely on the CORI database. Employers will not be liable for claims of (1) negligent hiring by reason of relying solely on CORI records obtained from the Commonwealth and not performing additional criminal background checks, or (2) discriminatory employment practices for failure to hire a person based on erroneous information within the CORI database, provided that the employer obtained and verified the CORI records in compliance with the law and made the challenged employment decision within 90 days of obtaining the criminal offender record information.
In the coming months, the newly created Department of Criminal Justice Information Services is expected to issue procedures and guidance concerning access to the CORI system and implementation of the CORI reform law. In addition to revising application forms now in advance of the November 4, 2010, effective date for that provision of the law, Massachusetts employers should review their personnel policies and procedures to prepare for the May 2012 effective date of the remaining provisions of the law.
If you have any questions associated with this legislation or criminal background investigations, please contact a member of the firm's Labor and Employment group.
Day Pitney Alert
Day Pitney Alert
Day Pitney Alert
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