A new law passed by the Rhode Island legislature and approved by the Governor known as “ban the box” takes effect January 1, 2014. The bill eliminates the box on job applications that inquire about prior criminal convictions. It applies to both public and private employers in Rhode Island that employ four or more individuals, or any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer.
Current law in Rhode Island restricts employers from inquiring about arrests. Senate Bill 357 amends Chapter 28-5 of the Rhode Island General Laws entitled “Fair Employment Practices.” With its passage, the bill makes it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer to inquire about any convictions before the first interview. However, employers may ask an applicant for information about his or her criminal convictions at the first interview or thereafter.
There are two specific exceptions provided in the law allowing employers to inquire about convictions before the first interview. An exception is provided if a federal or state law or regulation creates a disqualification from employment based on a person’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses. Another exemption is made if an individual must be bonded for a position and a conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining the bond.
Rhode Island joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Minnesota, in passing ban-the-box legislation. There are also many cities across the United States that have passed various forms of ban-the-box ordinances. It is a trend we expect to continue.
You may access Senate Bill 357 here: http://legiscan.com/RI/text/S0357/id/866828/Rhode_Island-2013-S0357-Comm_Sub.pdf