Ban-the-Box Enforcement Efforts Increase in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s office conducts employment application audits in an effort to crack down on the inclusion of prohibited criminal history questions.

In early May, Attorney General Maura Healey announced that 19 businesses were cited for violating the state’s ban-the-box law by asking job applicants about their criminal history on initial employment applications. This enforcement action initiative targeted a wide range of businesses including a national clothing retailer, several restaurants, a product design and manufacturing company, grocery store, hardware store, liquor store, and shipping service.

Healy arrived at agreements with two of the larger companies which were ultimately fined $5,000 and were mandated to make appropriate changes to their application processes to achieve compliance with the law’s requirements. The remaining 17 employers were issued letters warning that improper questions had been identified on employment applications in violation of the law and that they were required to make adjustments accordingly and immediately.

Massachusetts law prohibits employers from including criminal history inquiries on an initial employment application and asking applicants (either verbally or in writing) about certain criminal history at any time during the application process or employment.

This recent course of action by the attorney general should serve as a reminder for Massachusetts’ employers to review their employment applications, hiring-related documents and hiring process to ensure compliance with the law.

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