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Fact Sheet: Discrimination on the Basis of Criminal Record

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 15l B, Section 4; 804 CMR 3.01

It is illegal for an employer to ask certain questions about a job applicant's or employee's criminal record. Employers may not ask about, maintain a record of, or base any employment decision on the following information if they have requested it:

  • Arrests or prosecution that did not lead to a conviction;
  • A first conviction for drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbance of the peace;
  • Misdemeanors where the date of conviction or the end of any period of incarceration was more than five years ago, provided that there have been no subsequent convictions within those five years;
  • Any record of a court appearance which has been sealed under state law;
  • Anything pertaining to juvenile record, including delinquency and child in need of services complaints, unless the juvenile was tried as an adult in Superior Court.

An employer may not take action against an applicant or employee for answering an unlawful question untruthfully.

An employer may ask:

  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
  • Within the last five years have you been convicted of, or released from incarceration for a misdemeanor which was not a first offense for drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, a minor traffic violation, an affray, or disturbing the peace?

IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL FOR AN EMPLOYER TO REQUEST FROM AN APPLICANT OR EMPLOYEE A COPY OF A PROBATION OR ARREST RECORD,* OR TO ASK AN APPLICANT OR EMPLOYEE TO SIGN A RELEASE PERMITTING ACCESS TO SUCH INFORMATION.

* An employer that applies for and is granted access to criminal record information by the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board under the Criminal Record Information Act (CORI) may obtain some information on applicants'/employees' criminal records. Access to information under CORI is limited to that which is necessary to perform the relevant criminal justice or statutory duties.