How does a criminal conviction impact your job in Massachusetts?

Laws are present that limit the amount of information an employer can gather about an applicant's criminal record.

The repercussions connected to a criminal conviction often reach far beyond initial criminal penalties. Individuals convicted of crime face repercussions long after they have paid their fines and served any required prison time or probationary sentence. Employers, rental companies and even scholarship review boards may consider the presence of an applicant's criminal history when deciding to hire, provide housing or grant an applicant a scholarship opportunity. This can make it difficult for those with a criminal record to move on with their lives.

This is even more true today than in the past. The evolution of technology has made it much easier for employers to get information about an applicant's past and use this information when making an employment, housing or scholarship determination.

As a result, lawmakers throughout the country have taken steps to help better ensure these individuals have a chance at a better future. Massachusetts is one of those states.

How is Massachusetts working to help those who have a criminal record?

Massachusetts state law now bans employers from considering an applicant's criminal records during an initial job application. This "ban-the-box" law has some exceptions, such as positions that would result in the presumptive disqualification of an applicant with a criminal record. An individual with a criminal conviction for a crime against a child, for example, would likely be automatically disqualified from a position in the childcare industry.

The law also restricts how far back an employer can look into an employee's past. Generally, the state allows a five-year look back period for misdemeanors and a ten year look back period for felonies. Again, exceptions are present. These include convictions for murder, manslaughter and certain sex offenses that resulted in incarceration in a state facility.

Licensing agencies must also follow certain guidelines. These agencies generally cannot disqualify an applicant based on a conviction alone. This includes those in the real estate, dentistry and medical professions.

What if I am facing a criminal conviction or have a criminal record?

There are two approaches to reduce the risk of the consequences outlined above. First, an individual facing allegations of wrongdoing should build a strong defense to the charges. An attorney experienced in these matters can craft a defensive strategy to your situation. This can better ensure your legal rights are protected.

Second, take proactive steps to clear your criminal records. Depending on the details of your history, you may be able to seal the records or, in rare circumstances, have them expunged.