Sunday, December 19, 2010

Massachusetts’ New Law Bans the Use of Questions About Criminal History on an “Initial Written Application” for Employment

Effective November 4, 2010, Massachusetts joined the fight against discrimination of applicants based upon their criminal information. The criminal offender record information ("CORI") law provides that it is unlawful for an employer to request criminal history information on an “initial written” employment application. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is the state agency that enforces this new law and has held in its Fact Sheet that any written form or application requesting an applicant’s criminal history prior to an interview falls under this prohibition. The Fact Sheet and clarification was needed because as you could expect, employers previously interpreted the CORI law to permit them to ask applicants about criminal history on documents other than the initial written application.

This law is quite different from Wisconsin's prohibition against arrest and conviction discrimination in employment. In Wisconsin it is lawful to inquire about an applicant's arrest and conviction record during the application and interview phase because it allows an employer to decide if any offense falls under the "substantially related" defense to discrimination based upon arrest and conviction record.

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