Massachusetts' Fair Chance Law
Source: National Employment Law Project
Governor Deval Patrick (D) signed Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2010 on August 6, 2010. Senate Bill 2583 was supported by a broad coalition (including Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Boston Workers Alliance (BWA)). Employers can no longer use an initial written employment application to ask whether an applicant has been convicted unless a legal restriction applies to the specific job or occupation. Effective May 4, 2012, the law requires that applicants receive a copy of their crimi- nal history report prior to being questioned about their history and if an adverse decision is made based on the report. As a self-auditing mechanism, individuals are able to determine if the criminal history report was run through the state system. With certain exceptions, criminal records provided by the state may only contain (1) felony convictions for 10 years following disposition; (2) misde- meanor convictions for 5 years following disposition; and (3) pending criminal charges.
Commentary: The bill uniquely tackles the issue of inaccurate commercial background screeners by creating an incentive for employers to use the state’s criminal history database, which then limits the length of time that criminal history information is available. It also ensures that a denied applicant receives a copy of his or her record, paralleling one component of the federal consumer protection law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which applies to commercially-prepared background checks.