Rhode Island Law Will Ban the Box for Public and Certain Private Employers at Initial Application

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Rhode IslandRhode Island becomes the latest state to limit an employers’ ability to ask about an applicant’s criminal history at the time of application.

Effective January 1, 2014, Rhode Island will enact a law designating when public and many private employers may permissibly inquire into the criminal past of a job applicant, as Governor Lincoln Chafee signed Senate Bill 357 into law on July 16, 2013.

Senate Bill 357 amends Rhode Island General Laws Section 28-5-7 entitled "Unlawful Employment Practices", and the new provisions state it shall be an unlawful practice “for any employer to include on any application for employment, except applications  for law enforcement agency positions or positions related to law enforcement agencies, a question inquiring or to otherwise inquire either orally or in writing whether the applicant has ever been arrested, or charged with or convicted of any crime” provided, that:

  1. If a federal or state law or regulation creates a mandatory or presumptive disqualification from employment based on a person's conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant  has ever been convicted of any of those offenses; or

  2. If a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required for the position for which the applicant is seeking employment and his or her conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of those offenses; and

  3. Notwithstanding, any employer may ask an applicant for information about his or her criminal convictions at the first interview or thereafter, in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws.”
According to the law, the new guidelines apply to “the state and all political subdivisions of the state and any person in this state employing four (4) or more individuals, and any person acting in the interest of an employer directly or indirectly.”

It is important to note that while “ban-the-box” legislation prohibits inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application, it does not prohibit employers from processing a criminal background check on an applicant. Comprehensive, pre-employment criminal background checks are increasingly-important as ban-the-box legislation becomes more prevalent nationwide. Employers are becoming more limited by state, city, and county laws as to what they can ask prospective employees on job applications, and thus are more reliant on accredited background screening agencies to provide them with thorough and accurate background information.

Employment Background Investigations Inc., (EBI) is committed to providing employers with valuable education and resources on changing legislation and cutting-edge and compliant solutions to meet federal, state, local, and international mandatory requirements.  EBI is not providing legal advice or counsel and nothing provided in this publication should be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Readers should consult with their own legal counsel to determine their responsibilities or if they have questions on any information provided by EBI.

EBI is a technology driven innovator and leader in providing domestic and global background employment screening, drug testing, and occupational healthcare and I-9 compliance solutions.  With emphasis on business process optimization, EBI services over 5,000 clients in over 200 countries and territories worldwide and specializes in the development, implementation and management of comprehensive and customized employment screening programs for large and multi-national clients.  EBI is a founding member and active participant within the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS).  EBI is the only background screening firm to hold an ISO27001:2005 certification for information security and to be accredited by the Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) created by the NAPBS.