You are here

Criminal Records and Applying for Jobs

Produced by Director CORI & Re-entry Project, Greater Boston Legal Services
Last updated July 2019

When you first apply for a job, it is illegal for many employers to ask about your criminal records (CORI) on the first form you fill out. Later on, the employer can ask you about your CORI. See Ban the Box.

Employers can only get a copy of your CORI if you allow them to. They must give you a CORI Acknowledgment form to sign. The form asks for your personal information:

  • full name,
  • birthday,
  • place you were born,
  • mother’s maiden name - the name she had when she was born,
  • father’s name, and
  • Social Security number.

This information helps make sure it is your CORI the employer will get. See Mistakes on CORI.

Important

It is illegal for employers to ask you for a copy of your own CORI for them. They must get their own copy from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services DCJIS.

The copy the employer gets is different from the report you get: 

  • The CORI report you get lists all your cases. Your report includes cases that were dismissed or cases where you were found not guilty.
  • The CORI report many employers get lists your open cases and cases that ended in a conviction. Convictions are cases where you were found guilty. Cases that are "open" have not been decided yet.

See Who can see my CORI?

Is there anything employers are not allowed to ask about my criminal history before they hire me?

Yes. Most employers cannot ask you about your sealed criminal records.

If your records are not sealed, most employers are also not allowed to ask you about:

  • Any case that did not end in a conviction.
  • An arrest that did not end in a conviction. 
  • A first-time conviction for drunkenness, affray or simple assault.
  • Minor traffic violations, affray, fighting or disturbing the peace.
  • A conviction for a misdemeanor that was 5 or more years ago.
  • A juvenile court case.  Employers can only ask you about the juvenile court case if:
    • the case was tried in an adult court, and
    • you were convicted as an adult.
  • A case that is sealed or expunged.

What can employers ask about my criminal history before they hire me?

Employers cannot ask you about your CORI on the first job application you fill out.

But after you apply, employers can ask you:

  • If you were ever found guilty of a felony.
  • About any misdemeanor conviction from less than 5 years ago.

Important

You do not have to let employers know about any sealed or expunged convictions.

If all your cases are sealed, you can answer “I have no record.”

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm