NYC Law Amended to “Ban the Box” Pertaining to Arrest Record or Criminal Conviction

On June 29, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed law number 2015/063, a Local Law to amend the NYC Administrative code in relation to prohibiting discrimination based on one’s arrest record or criminal conviction. The amendments are reflected here (website URL here).

The law, also known as the “Fair Chance Act“, was effectively designed to “ban the box” – that is, the checkbox on employment applications that requires an applicant to disclose, up front, that they have an arrest record or criminal conviction.

The new language provides, among other things:

Arrest and conviction records; employer inquiries. (a) In addition to the restrictions in subdivision 11 of this section, it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer, employment agency or agent thereof to: …

(2) Make any inquiry or statement related to the pending arrest or criminal conviction record of any person who is in the process of applying for employment with such employer or agent thereof until after such employer or agent thereof has extended a conditional offer of employment to the applicant. For purposes of this subdivision, with respect to an applicant for temporary employment at a temporary help firm as such term is defined by subdivision five of section 916 of article 31 of the New York labor law, an offer to be placed in the temporary help firm’s general candidate pool shall constitute a conditional offer of employment. For purposes of this subdivision, “any inquiry” means any question communicated to an applicant in writing or otherwise, or any searches of publicly available records or consumer reports that are conducted for the purpose of obtaining an applicant’s criminal background information. For purposes of this subdivision, “any statement” means a statement communicated in writing or otherwise to the applicant for purposes of obtaining an applicant’s criminal background information regarding: (i) an arrest record; (ii) a conviction record; or (iii) a criminal background check.

Even prior to this law, it had been unlawful to discriminate against job candidates on the basis of arrest record or criminal conviction. What this law does is make it less likely that an employer will find out about an arrest/conviction early on in the process, thereby enabling the candidate to highlight their credentials before the employer has an opportunity to learn about their arrest/conviction.

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