Criminal record and hand cuffs

Can a Rhode Island Employer Ask About Your Criminal History?

After an arrest or a conviction, you probably have a hundred thoughts and concerns running through your mind. Among those fears, many wonder whether Rhode Island employers can ask about your criminal history. What could be more intrusive or demoralizing than an employer not hiring you because of a mistake you made years ago.

Ban the Box

Employment background checks have been around for more than 100 years. They were originally intended to keep people with “a violent disposition” from joining the workforce.

Over several decades, background checks became more and more intrusive. Every year they’d ask more personal questions and delve deeper into a prospective employee’s history.

From these invasive background checks came “the box,” a portion of the job application asking whether the applicant was ever convicted. In many cases, marking this box became an automatic disqualification.

The box resigned hundreds of thousands of Americans to a life of low-income jobs. It didn’t matter what the conviction was for or if the applicant was actually guilty. The box itself was demoralizing.

In 2013, Rhode Island passed the “Ban the Box.” This law alleviates most, but not all of the employment difficulties associated with a criminal record.

The Big Question

Under the Ban the Box law, no employer may ask if you were ever arrested. If you ever get that question on an application, in an interview, or from a manager, you should contact the Rhode Island Department of Labor immediately.

The law also prevents employers from asking about prior convictions on the initial job application. However, it’s important to note that they can still inquire about convictions during an interview.

The law also includes a few exceptions. Employers may discriminate against some convictions, (especially those relating to finance) if the position requires a standard fidelity bond.

If you have questions about Rhode Island criminal records, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with an experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney from The Law Offices of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq., kindly send us an email or call (401) 312-4385.