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Massachusetts State Background Check Laws

The Massachusetts governor signed Chapter 256 of Senate Bill 2583 (2010) into law on August 6, 2010, thereby prohibiting public and private employers from using initial job applications to screen applicants for previous criminal convictions, unless there is a legal restriction on the specific job or occupation that requires that this information needs to be revealed at this stage of the application process.

Furthermore, the law mandates that applicants be provided with a copy of their criminal history report prior to being questioned about their history. If an adverse decision is made based on the report, the applicant must be provided with a copy of the report upon which this decision was made.

Criminal records provided by the state will contain only those felony convictions for ten years following disposition of the conviction, misdemeanor convictions for five years following the misdemeanor conviction, and pending criminal charges.

On April 13, 2018, the Massachusetts governor signed an amendment, S. 2371 (2018), which strengthened the Massachusetts ban the box law by decreasing the lookback period for misdemeanors to only three years.

Prohibiting employers from asking questions about sealed or expunged records during the application process, and requiring employers to clearly state on the job application that applicants with sealed or expunged records can indicate that they do not have a record.      


In Boston, background checks are only required for certain positions. In 2004, Boston implemented policies that would limit discrimination against people with criminal records applying for jobs in city government.

In 2006, these city policies were expanded, removing criminal history questions from the job application and requiring vendors working with the city to adhere to the revised policies.

The EEOC criteria are incorporated in an individualized assessment of an applicant’s criminal background in relationship to the nature of the job. If employment is denied, the applicant has the right to appeal and present mitigating information.


In 2007, Cambridge instituted policies intended to limit discrimination against people with criminal records applying for jobs in city government. In 2008, Cambridge passed an ordinance that extended these policies to vendors doing business with the city, requiring them to wait until later in the hiring process to conduct a background check, after an applicant has been found “otherwise qualified” for the positions.

Background checks are only required for certain positions. Individualized assessment, using the EEOC criteria, are required. Applicants have the right to appeal adverse decisions, and a copy of the background check report upon which the adverse decision is made will be provided to the applicant.


In 2009, the Worcester City Council passed the Fair CORI Practices Ordinance, which applied to “all persons and businesses supplying goods and/or services to the city of Worcester.”

Background checks will only be performed when the position is sensitive enough to warrant it. Those performing these checks must be thoroughly trained in performing background checks. EEOC criteria will be used to conduct an individualized assessment of background check results. A copy of the background check will be provided to the applicant, upon request, and the applicant has the right to appeal an adverse decision.

Cities Include: Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Cambridge, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, Quincy, Lynn, Newton and more.

Note: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel for advice related to your state/locality.