‘Felons need not apply’ policy is not allowed in New York

When someone says “felony,” what do you think of? Many people picture murders, serious assaults or bank robberies. What many people don’t think of are the relatively minor crimes that are only considered felonies because they carry sentences of longer than one year in prison. The crimes that are classified as felonies fall on a broad spectrum, so knowing someone is a felon really gives someone no insight into the individual’s background.

Perhaps the company Bed Bath & Beyond never realized this when it created a policy that it would never hire someone with a felony conviction. Its criminal history policy came to light at a job fair in which a human resources representative stated quite clearly that felons need not apply. The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s office has come back to say that this policy is against the law.

Unlike some of the other protected categories, workplace or hiring discrimination based on criminal history is quite complex. While it is illegal for employers in New York City to discriminate based on arrest history, they can based on criminal history, but only in specific situations. If there would be a risk of a prior offender would harm individuals or property, or if there is a relationship between the crime and the job. Blanket policies about not hiring felons, however, are not allowed.

So, after the bureau began investigating Bed Bath & Beyond, they have agreed to pay restitution to the individual applicants affected, as well as to organizations whose mission it is to help former felons get jobs. The company has also agreed to change its policy.

Source: WXXI News, Bed Bath & Beyond Settles Employment Discrimination Case,” Michelle Faust, April 23, 2014

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