New York City passed the Fair Chance Act last week, making it the latest of a growing number of states, counties and cities across the country to bar employers from inquiring about job applicants’ criminal histories during the early stages of the job application process. This law, known more commonly as “Ban the Box” legislation, makes it a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law for New York City private employers to question job applicants about their criminal backgrounds until after making them a conditional employment offer. The legislation is designed to provide capable, qualified individuals with criminal backgrounds the opportunity to apply for jobs without being rejected at the outset based solely upon their troubled histories. However, it does not mandate that employers ultimately hire individuals with criminal histories.
As noted, under the Fair Chance Act, prospective employers are permitted to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history after extending a conditional job offer. If the employer so decides it may withdraw the offer after learning about the person’s criminal background, the employer must keep the position open for a three-day period and provide the applicant with a written explanation as to why the offer is being rescinded. The applicant may utilize the three-day window to interact with the employer and address the employer’s stated concerns, such as correcting any inaccuracies and/or submitting proof of rehabilitation. As with other Ban the Box legislation, exemptions are made for jobs where criminal backgrounds would present an automatic bar to employment, including law enforcement and other sensitive, security-related positions.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed a similar law back in 2011 that applied to New York City public sector job applicants. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the pending legislation in the upcoming weeks.