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Your criminal history shouldn't deny you opportunity to work

It may take you some time to find a person in New York City who hasn't done something in their past that they regret. Some of those people never suffered criminal consequences for those regrets, but many others have. Perhaps you are one of those people.

Now that you have "paid your debt to society," you want to get back into the workforce and support yourself and your family. You may have concerns that your past could keep you from obtaining gainful employment, but New York City has taken steps to try to prevent that from happening.

What is New York's Fair Chance Act?

The Fair Chance Act is a crucial amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law passed in 2015. This act prohibits most employment agencies, employers and labor organizations from discriminating against you because of your criminal history.

It means that a prospective employer can't ask you about your criminal past until you receive a conditional offer of employment. Before this point, your application, interview and any additional vetting process focus on your experience and your qualifications to perform the duties of the position for which you apply. A company would offer you employment on those merits, and not deny it based on your past mistakes.

It's not entirely a free pass, however

Does this mean that any criminal history you may have does not count at all? No. Depending on the position you seek and the contents of your criminal history, the employer may rescind an offer of employment, but only if it would directly affect the position.

However, before taking back any offer of employment, the employer must give you the opportunity to tell your side of the story. If a conditional offer of employment is rescinded, it must be only for one of the following reasons:

  • Medical examination results
  • Criminal background results
  • Other disqualifying information

There could be something in your history that would present an unreasonable risk or make you unsuitable for the particular position. Employers must follow certain procedures when gathering information in making a final determination regarding whether to offer you a particular position.

What if the employer violates the act?

If you believe that an employer discriminated against you at any point during the process due to your criminal history, you may be able to file a complaint under the act. These claims can be complicated and a challenge, so it may be worth your while to involve someone experienced in employment law to assist and guide you through the process.

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