Rhode 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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.”
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.
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