Labor and Labor Relations
Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5.1-14
§ 28-5.1-14. State licensing and regulatory agencies.
(a) As used in this section:
(1) "Licensing authority" means any agency, examining board, or other office with the authority to impose and evaluate licensing requirements on any profession.
(2) "License" means and includes the whole or part of any agency permit, certificate, approval, or similar form of permission required by law, but it does not include a motor vehicle operator's license as required in chapter 10 of title 31.
(b) State agencies shall not discriminate by considering race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, or disability in granting, denying, or revoking a license or charter, nor shall any person, corporation, or business firm that is licensed or chartered by the state unlawfully discriminate against or segregate any person on these grounds. All businesses licensed or chartered by the state shall operate on a nondiscriminatory basis, according to equal employment treatment and access to their services to all persons, except unless otherwise exempted by the laws of the state. Any licensee, charter holder, or retail sales permit holder who fails to comply with this policy is subject to any disciplinary action that is consistent with the legal authority and rules and regulations of the appropriate licensing or regulatory agency. State agencies that have the authority to grant, deny, or revoke licenses or charters will cooperate with the state equal opportunity office to prevent any person, corporation, or business firm from discriminating because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, or disability or from participating in any practice that may have a disparate effect on any protected class within the population. The state equal opportunity office shall monitor the equal employment opportunity activities and affirmative action plans of all such organizations.
(c) The state agencies, licensing boards, and commissions covered by this section shall include, but not be limited to, those departments enumerated in § 42-6-1 and the state agencies, licensing boards, and commissions under the jurisdiction of those departments.
(d) No person shall be disqualified to practice, pursue, or engage in any occupation, trade, vocation, profession, or business for which an occupational license, permit, certificate, or registration is required to be issued by the state or any of its agencies or any state licensing board or commission, solely or in part, because of a prior conviction of a crime or crimes unless the underlying crime or crimes substantially relate to the occupation to which the license applies. Any other state law to the contrary will be superseded by this provision.
(e) No occupational license, permit, certificate, or registration issued by the state or any of its agencies or any state licensing board or commission shall be suspended or revoked, solely or in part, because of a prior conviction of a crime or crimes unless the underlying crime or crimes substantially relate to the occupation to which the license applies. Any other state law to the contrary will be superseded by this provision.
(f) In determining if a conviction substantially relates to the occupation for which the license is sought, the licensing authority shall consider:
(1) The state's legitimate interest in equal access to employment for individuals who have had past contact with the criminal justice system;
(2) The state's legitimate interest in protecting the property and the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public; and
(3) The relationship of the crime or crimes to the ability, capacity, and fitness required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the position of employment or occupation.
(g) A person who has been convicted of a crime or crimes that substantially relate to the occupation for which a license is sought shall not be disqualified from the occupation if the person can show competent evidence of sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the duties of the occupation for which the license is sought. The licensing authority shall consider the time elapsed since the conviction when determining sufficient rehabilitation, as well as any evidence presented by the applicant regarding:
(1) Completion of a period of at least two (2) years after release from imprisonment, or at least two (2) years after the sentencing date for a probation sentence not accompanied by incarceration, without subsequent conviction or pending criminal charge;
(2) The nature, seriousness, and relevance of the crime or crimes for which convicted;
(3) All circumstances relative to the crime or crimes, including mitigating circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime or crimes;
(4) The age of the person at the time the crime or crimes were committed;
(5) Claims that the criminal record information is in error or inadmissible under subsection (h) of this section; and
(6) All other competent evidence of rehabilitation and present fitness presented, including, but not limited to, letters of reference by persons who have been in contact with the applicant since the applicant's release from any state or federal correctional institution.
(h) The following criminal records may not be used in connection with any application for a license, permit, certificate, or registration:
(1) Juvenile adjudications;
(2) Records of arrest not followed by a valid conviction;
(3) Convictions that have been, pursuant to law, annulled or expunged;
(4) Misdemeanor convictions for which no jail sentence can be imposed;
(5) A conviction that is not related to the occupation for which a license is being sought, as determined by subsection (f) of this section.
(i) If a licensing authority intends to deny, suspend, or revoke an occupational license, permit, or certificate solely or in part because of the individual's prior conviction of a crime, the licensing authority shall notify the individual in writing of the following prior to the final decision:
(1) The specific conviction(s) that form the basis for the potential denial, suspension, or revocation and the rationale for deeming the conviction substantially related to the occupation;
(2) A copy of the conviction history report, if any, on which the licensing authority relies;
(3) A statement that the applicant may provide evidence of mitigation or rehabilitation, as described in subsection (g) of this section; and
(4) Instructions on how to respond to the potential denial, suspension, or revocation.
(j) After receiving the notice of potential denial, suspension, or revocation, the individual shall have thirty (30) business days to respond.
(k) If a licensing authority denies, suspends, or revokes an occupational license, permit, or certificate solely or in part because of the applicant's substantially related conviction, the licensing authority shall issue a final written decision that addresses each of the factors enumerated in subsection (f) of this section and that also includes, but is not limited to, the following:
(1) The final decision, including the substantially related conviction(s) that form the basis for denial, suspension, or revocation and the rationale for occupation relatedness;
(2) The process for appealing the decision in accordance with chapter 35 of title 42 enumerated in subsection (g) of this section; and
(3) The earliest date the person may reapply for an occupational license, permit, or certificate, which shall not be longer than two (2) years from the date of the final decision.
(l) Each state agency or licensing body shall issue a report to be made publicly available on the agency or licensing body website one year after the passage of this section and by January 31 of each year thereafter, indicating the following:
(1) The number of initial applicants for every occupational license, permit, or certificate under their jurisdiction within the preceding calendar year, including the number of applicants granted licenses, the number of applicants denied licenses for any reason, and, to the extent available, the demographic breakdown of the applicants, including race, ethnicity, and gender, and city or town of residence; and
(2) The number of applicants denied solely, or in part, because of a criminal conviction.
(m) Unless specifically exempted by reference to this section or otherwise contrary to federal law, any existing or future state law or regulation relating to the granting, denying, suspending, or revoking of a license by a state agency shall be subject to the conditions and procedures established by this section.
(n) If any provision of this section or its application to any individual or circumstances is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this section that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this section are severable.
History of Section.
P.L. 1988, ch. 149, § 1; P.L. 1997, ch. 150, § 5; P.L. 2004, ch. 6, § 44; P.L. 2020, ch. 65, § 1; P.L. 2020, ch. 71, § 1.