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Massachusetts Employers Prepare for New Rules on Conducting Criminal History Checks

Published:  April 19, 2017

The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) is preparing new rules for the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law.  The CORI law regulates employers’ ability to conduct criminal background checks.  Any criminal charge filed in a Massachusetts court appears in a person’s CORI report and includes all cases, including not guilty findings and dismissed cases.

The new rules broaden the scope of who is considered an employee for purposes of a CORI background check.  A criminal background check under CORI law no longer applies only to traditional or volunteer employees, but will include contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and special state, county, or municipal employees. If an employer is using CORI to take adverse action against an employee, then the employer must provide the employee with the specific information found in the CORI report that lead to this adverse action.

The definition of what is considered “Criminal Offender Record Information” will no longer be a restricted list of examples of information that is or not included as part of a CORI background check.  The regulations also now specifically exclude from the definition of CORI information related to criminal proceedings that were initiated against an individual before the individual turned 18, unless the individual is adjudicated as an adult.  Prior to the revisions, this threshold was 17 years old.

Employers will be allowed to store CORI in the cloud storage system, provided that employers electing to store it in the cloud have a written agreement with the background check provider, and that the storage method is password and encryption protected. Background screening companies can continue to obtain CORI at the request of employers, but are still restricted with respect to storing CORI.  Background screening companies are not allowed to electronically or physically store CORI results unless authorized to act as the decision maker by the employer.

The new regulations will also change how employers handle the CORI Acknowledgement Form and require employers to enter into an iCORI Agency Agreement prior to obtaining and/or renewing electronic access to the iCORI system. The iCORI Agency Agreement has not been issued and is forthcoming.

Employers will want to alter their approach to employee criminal background checks. Employers also need to ensure that their background check providers are using procedures and forms that are in compliance with the new rules.

If you have any questions about the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law or the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) new rules, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal, P.C.