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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Massachusetts Municipal Personnel Association reviewed procedures and best practices for employee background screenings during its March 7 meeting in Quincy.
Attorney Kier Wachterhauser, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, gave an overview of criminal background checks and best practices for municipal employers.
Wachterhauser discussed using criminal offender record information (CORI) checks during the hiring process for general employment, and for hiring educators in particular. He also discussed the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which allows employers to conduct credit/background checks at any time in the hiring and employment process.
CORI shows an individual’s criminal court appearances in Massachusetts, including arrests, convictions, dismissals and serious violations. Wachterhauser noted that the state’s antidiscrimination statute, Chapter 151B, prohibits employers from asking any questions about CORI on an initial written application.
Kellie O’Shea, associate general counsel for Creative Services Inc., an employment screening and security consulting firm, offered guidance on the criminal history search process, including which systems to search, the scope of a search, searching sex offender registries, CORI regulations and model policies.
O’Shea stressed the importance of conducting a thorough search on the local, state and national level, including any previous out-of-state residences of prospective employees.
Barry DeBlasio, community resources director in Plymouth and president-elect of the Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association, discussed how background checks are conducted at the municipal level. He advised human resources professionals to run all criminal background inquiries through one centralized municipal department in order to avoid discrepancies and ensure adherence to laws governing background checks.
DeBlasio recommended conducting both CORI and SORI (sexual offender record information) background checks for all employees, including independent contractors and volunteers, like sports coaches or field trip chaperones. He discussed the challenges municipal departments face in running background checks, like running checks for employees under the age of 18.
For more information on criminal record check services in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/criminal-record-check-services.