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


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