Rhode Island Bars Criminal History Questions on Job Applications

A new Rhode Island law will prevent employers in the state from asking prospective employees about their criminal history on job applications.

The “ban the box” law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, applies to businesses with more than four employees but exempts cases where a fidelity bond is required. Employers are still allowed to ask about criminal histories during job interviews, and the legislation also does not prohibit background checks.

According to the National Employment Law Project, nine other states and 51 municipalities now have similar measures on the books.

Jewelers Security Alliance president John Kennedy says that the Rhode Island law and similar ones could present a challenge for jewelers.

“It just makes the hiring process more cumbersome,” Kennedy says. “We believe that you should know the criminal history of someone you are hiring, and in the totality of circumstances, you will make a judgment.”

But Rhode Island state Senator Harold Metts, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that the law is meant to let people who have made mistakes move on from them. 

“We need to change our laws to allow them, even encourage them, to do so,” the Democrat said. “They are not being allowed to do so if every job application they fill out looks like an instant dead-end because of that one question about criminal history.”

JCK News Director