Rhode Island joins states with ‘ban the box’ laws

by Timothy C. Cavazza

Rhode Island’s new law prohibiting employers from asking on employment applications whether an applicant has ever been “convicted of a crime” takes effect on January 1.

Despite the initial ban, employers are permitted to “ask an applicant for information about his or her criminal convictions at the first interview or thereafter, in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws.”

The law also allows employers to ask applicants about specific criminal convictions if either (1) state or federal law or regulations create a mandatory or presumptive disqualification from the job based on a conviction of a particular crime or (2) the job requires a bond and a conviction of a particular crime would disqualify the applicant from obtaining the bond.

The law continues to prohibit employers from asking applicants whether they have been merely “arrested” or “charged” with “any crime.”

For more information on this topic and other new laws in Rhode Island, see “Legislative update: What’s new for Rhode Island employers in 2013?” on page 1 of the August issue of Rhode Island Employment Law Letter.

Timothy C. Cavazza is an attorney with Whelan, Kinder & Siket LLP in Providence, Rhode Island. He can be reached at