The Beat Goes On: Rhode Island Latest to “Ban the Box”

Angela Preston

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Rhode Island has become the eighth state to enact a “ban the box” law that prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on a job application. The state ban will have a far-reaching impact on how and when employers can conduct criminal background checks. The new law applies to both public and private employers, similar to the precedent set in Massachusetts, Hawaii, and most recently Minnesota.

In four other states–Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico, ban the box restrictions are limited to hiring public workers. Two states—California and Illinois—have adopted administrative directives to limit banning the box, and 51 municipalities have passed similar measures. A few weeks ago we told you about two major cities, Buffalo and Seattle, banning the box, joining other major municipalities including Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey. Statewide bans continue to be considered in New Jersey and California.

The new law in Rhode Island was signed by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee on July 16, 2013 and will take effect on January 1, 2014.

The law amends Chapter 28-5 of the State of Rhode Island General Laws entitled “Fair Employment Practices” and has the following provisions:

  •  It applies to public and private employers who employ four or more individuals
  • The law makes it an “unlawful  employment practice” for an employer in the state to inquire about whether an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime before the first interview with the following exceptions:

o   If the application is for law enforcement agency positions or positions related to law enforcement agencies;

o   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 1 those offenses; or

o   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.

As the ban the box trend continues to gain momentum, private employers need to be aware of pending bills and legislative activity at the state and local level that have an impact on hiring practices. We will continue to keep you informed.

Angela Preston
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Angela Preston

Vice President of Compliance & General Counsel at EmployeeScreenIQ
Angela Preston has more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and over 10 years in the background screening area. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), is a member of the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC), and is actively involved in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and ASIS International. Angela is also a member of the Ohio State and Columbus Bar Associations. Angela has direct oversight and management of compliance programs, and will provide guidance in complex legal matters including state and federal legislation, EEO law, client education, adjudication, pre/adverse action process, NAPBS Accreditation and client and vendor contract management.
Angela Preston
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