Massachusetts Attorney General Fines Employers for Ban-the-Box Violations

Business Man with Gavel and Booklet Ban-the-Box violations
Attorney General Maura Healey is now enforcing the state of Massachusetts’ “Ban-the-Box” law, which prohibits employers in the state from inquiring about applicants’ previous criminal convictions on the employment application.

The investigation of Ban-the-Box violations is aimed at more than 70 businesses from the Cambridge and Boston area that implement a paper job application.

Of the 70 businesses, 21 were cited for violating the state “Ban-the-Box” law, and three were imposed a fine of $5,000.00. Healey’s office sent the remaining 18 businesses warning letters, advising them to immediately remove the question from their job application in order to be in compliance.

“Jobs are the pathway to economic security and building a better life,” was how Healey explained the enforcement. “But unfortunately, many of our residents with criminal records face barriers to securing employment. These actions are an effort to give all job applicants a fair chance.”

Massachusetts law reforms the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) System, prohibiting employers from requiring prospective employees to check a box indicating a previous criminal conviction. There are exceptions to the law, including jobs dealing with young children or companies in the financial sector. Employers may still conduct a background check to ensure suitability with the company.

Furthermore, the law states that previous felony convictions may be discussed during the first interview; however, first time convictions of lower level misdemeanors (such as speeding) or misdemeanors older than five years old may not be discussed. The philosophy behind the law is to level the playing field. It is meant to allow candidates with a criminal past to make it to the interview portion of the hiring process, as opposed to be denied during review of the job application.

It is not clear how much “Ban-the-Box” laws are helping former offenders find jobs. A 2017 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that the employment rate of former offenders actually went down, compared to those without records, after the law went into effect.

Currently, 32 states have similar “Ban-the-Box” laws for all state employees. Some states like Massachusetts have laws in place for private employers. The majority of the companies cited for violating the law had no idea a law even existed, said Jamie Walsh. “If that’s the law, we will remove it, we had no idea”. This is why employers must align themselves with a competent background screening company that understands how to avoid Ban-the-Box violations and makes every effort to keep their clients in compliance.

Download Our Ban-the-Box Infographic Guide

Our infographic has been organized by states to include:

  • Any state laws pertaining to private/state employment
  • Counties within the state that may be subject to private/county employment
  • Cities within the counties that may be subjected to private/city employment

Each law’s requirements are also defined for their respective jurisdiction, whether it is for:

  • Eliminating the question on the application
  • Requiring a conditional job offer
  • Following the EEOC individual assessment
  • Giving the applicant an opportunity to appeal a denial of employment
  • Providing a copy of the background screening report regardless of their hiring status