On June 10th, the New York City Council voted with near unanimity to break down a barrier faced by job seekers with criminal histories by passing the Fair Chance Act. At its core, this legislation prevents a person’s criminal record from acting as an arbitrary ban to employment by forbidding employers from discussing criminal convictions during the application and interview process.
Yesterday’s vote makes New York City the thirteenth city to pass such “Ban the Box” legislation. There major cities–including Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. have passed similar acts to help their citizens with a criminal record secure employment and avoid recidivism.
The New York City law stands out as one of the strongest in the nation. Specifically, the Fair Chance Act makes it unlawful for employers to ask applicants about their criminal history as part of the job application process, including on the written application and during the interview. The Act further prohibits reference to a criminal background check requirement or an express preference for applicants without criminal records in advertisements for open positions.
Employers are still permitted to run criminal background checks on applicants. However, the Fair Chance Act requires employers to wait until after a conditional offer has been extended to an applicant to conduct any such background check. This delay is intended to ensure that an otherwise qualified applicant is not indiscriminately screened out because of criminal conviction.
Once enacted, this local law will supplement an existing City and State law that provides protection from unlawful discrimination based on criminal records. Article 23-A of the New York Corrections Law prevents employers from enacting blanket bans on hiring persons with criminal records. Instead, employers are required to engage in an individualized analysis of each applicant taking into consideration among There things, how much time has passed since the conviction, the nature of the conviction, evidence of rehabilitation and whether the conviction is in any way related to the specific job in question. The Fair Chance Act is applicable to both public and private employers, and provides a private cause of action for aggrieved individuals.
Visit www.criminalconvictiondiscrimination.com for more information on criminal and credit history checks in the employment context.