Massachusetts Revises Law to Both Give and Restrict Employer’s Access to Criminal Records

By Michael Klazema on 5/21/2012

On Monday, Massachusetts made updates to its CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) system, making access to its records much easier for employers.  However, it will limit just how far background checks will be able to see to just ten years.  They made these changes in an effort to help people with old convictions find work so they can move on with their lives.

Many organizations believe the right for employers to know as much as possible about the criminal history of their workers takes precedence though.  On the other hand, a Massachusetts coalition of 125 different community organizations, religious institutions, and labor unions wants to bar access for screening companies that perform background checks, if their searches also extend beyond the CORI system, including checking court records at the source in each jurisdictions as that information might go much farther back and sometimes contain more details.

A spokesperson for the NAPBS stated that such a move would, “harm Massachusetts’s employers [by placing] restrictions on what information they’re allowed to use.”  Proponents of the law though see it another way.  Steve O’Neil, spokesman for a prisoner advocacy group says that the measure they advocate for is meant “to ensure that criminal records that are nonconvictions, very old convictions, or inaccurate would not be used against them and prevent them from getting housing or employment in the future.”  For now, employers, landlords, and background screening companies can access the CORI registry unrestricted, while understanding that search results are limited to the ten year rule except in the case of homicides and sex offenses. 

So far, Massachusetts is the only state to consider restricting access to its CORI system if users also look elsewhere for information, but it’s definitely receiving attention from groups in other states.  Most of these groups are background screening companies who believe that the information they provide is crucial to a transparent hiring processes, especially in terms of sensitive positions.  If companies use reputable organizations like, the criminal records they receive would not show arrest records, but only instead focus on convictions.  Additionally, updates their records constantly, sometimes having more up to date records than government organizations like the FBI finger print databases.  Their records not only give criminal conviction histories from all states through databases like US OneSEARCH, but also convictions under alternate identities and previous names from databases like US AliasSEARCH.  Are companies ready to give up this kind of access to help former convicts or will other states protect their companies by not following in the footsteps of Massachusetts?

About - - a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) - serves thousands of customers nationwide, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies by providing comprehensive screening services.  Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with an Eastern Operations Center in Chapin, S.C., is home to one of the largest online criminal conviction databases in the industry. For more information about backgroundchecks’ offerings, please visit


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
  • November 27 California’s biggest public school district is waiving the cost of volunteer background checks. The move is meant to encourage more family - and community members to get involved with the school district.
  • November 22 Contractors play an important role in the workforce, delivering services to both individuals and organizations. Vetting contractors for suitability continues to be a challenge, as two recent articles prove.
  • November 21 When it comes to background and pre-employment checks, it can be instructive to look at the characteristics of the ten most massive U.S. employers.
  • November 20 The #MeToo movement is bringing about legislative changes employers need to know about. We review some of the laws recently passed in California.
  • November 19

    Will a criminal conviction show up on your background check forever? In most states, there is a year limit for how long background check companies can report older criminal information.

  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 

  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
  • November 12 To ensure the best hires, DFWSPF has implemented a stringent employee screening process—one that includes background searches through