Resource Center

Sex Offender Registry Information

Question: Are there any restrictions on an organization’s ability to use sex offender registry information in employment or educational decisions?

Response & Analysis:

Yes, but only in some states.

There are a handful of states with laws in place that prohibit a person from using information obtained from a state’s sex offender registry to make an employment decision or to make a decision about education, fellowships or scholarships.

California’s Penal Code § 290.4(d) provides: “(1) A person is authorized to use information disclosed pursuant to this section only to protect a person at risk. (2) Except as authorized under paragraph (1) or any other provision of law, use of any information that is disclosed pursuant to this section for purposes relating to any of the following is prohibited: ... (E) Employment. ... (F) Education, scholarships, or fellowships.” Thus, organizations in California are not permitted to use sex offender registry information in employment or educational decisions unless it is used to protect a person at risk or unless otherwise authorized by another provision of law.

Nevada has a similar law in place, but the exception provided is slightly narrower. N.R.S. § 179B.270 provides: “Except as otherwise authorized pursuant to specific statute, a person shall not use information obtained from the community notification website for any purpose related to any of the following: ... 4. Employment. 5. Education, scholarships or fellowships.” Thus, an organization operating in Nevada is not permitted to use sex offender registry information to make an employment or educational decision unless the organization is authorized to do so by a specific statute.

New Jersey’s law has a similar effect, but only applies to educational decisions. N.J.S.A. § 2C:7-16(c) states: “Except as authorized under any other provision of law, use of any of the information disclosed pursuant to this act for the purpose of applying for, obtaining, or denying any of the following, is prohibited: ... (5) Education, scholarships, or fellowships.” So, organizations operating in New Jersey are generally prohibited from using the state’s sex offender registry in making a decision regarding education, scholarships or fellowships; however—unlike in California and Nevada—there is no restriction on an employer’s ability to use the same information in an employment decision.

Organizations should keep the aforementioned laws in mind when conducting employment screening and background checks on prospective and current employees. If your organization uses sex offender registry searches during the applicant screening process, be sure to adjust your procedures in the states with sex offender protection laws (or ensure that your use of the information fits within one of the exceptions provided in the various states).

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This document and/or presentation is provided as a service to our customers. Its contents are designed solely for informational purposes, and should not be inferred or understood as legal advice or binding case law, nor shared with any third parties. Persons in need of legal assistance should seek the advice of competent legal counsel. Although care has been taken in preparation of these materials, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information contained within it. Anyone using this information does so at his or her own risk.

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