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Friday, 13 April 2012 14:29

The Impact of the Massachusetts CORI Reform Law on Employer Background Checks

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Since the passage of the 2010 Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform bill, employers face ongoing changes in their use and access to criminal history information. By enhancing regulations around criminal history checks, the CORI bill aims to create greater employment opportunities for past criminal offenders.

CORI reform affects both regular employers and certain regulated employers, such as schools and long-term care facilities, which are required by law to obtain additional CORI information. Employers that do not abide by new CORI regulations may face steep fines as high as tens of thousands of dollars for each offense.

Below, we’ll review some of the main changes to CORI regulations that employers should be aware of:

 

Recent Changes
The changes in the CORI reform bill have been phased in over time. Effective November 2010, employers are prohibited from asking a Massachusetts applicant about their criminal history on a job application. Beginning May 4, 2012, access to CORI will change and information will be available through an iCORI website.

 

Limits on Report Information
The new regulations limit the information that will be available within a CORI report. Now a report will contain pending cases and convictions for 10 years for felony offenses and five years for misdemeanors. Some misdemeanors such as murder, manslaughter and sex offenses will remain on file for longer.

Sealed charges, or charges that are dismissed, resulted in no findings or resulted in a not-guilty decision, will no longer be included in a CORI report. While an individual may request to seal felony charges after 10 years and misdemeanor charges after 5 years, certain sex offenses and other crimes are not eligible for sealing.

New Employer Requirements
As long as an employer follows the statutory requirements within 90 days of obtaining a CORI report, it will not be held liable for negligent/discriminatory hiring practices. However, an employer is now required to follow tighter documentation rules, including retaining an applicant’s signed acknowledgment form for one year following a CORI request.

An employer cannot keep a CORI report on file for longer than seven years after an employee’s last working day or after an adverse hiring decision. To prevent misuse of the data, employers must specify which workers require access to the information. The employer must also keep a log of which individuals have accessed a CORI report for one year following its release.

The Switch to iCORI Reporting
Previously, employers would request paper based CORI reports through the mail. On May 4, 2012, employers will be able to register for access to iCORI, a new website. The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) manages the CORI database and will issue regulations to assist in the implementation of the CORI changes.

To comply with the new requirements an employer should review and update their background screening programs to accommodate changes in CORI regulations.

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