What is New York’s “Ban The Box” Law?

When you have a criminal record, it can feel like finding employment is an impossibility. Employers sometimes use a person’s criminal history as a screening tool when they’re making hiring decisions, despite whether it has any bearing on whether that person can do the job.

There are laws that protect employees and job seekers from discrimination based on their criminal record and arrest history. The Fair Chance Act is one of those laws and is intended to make the hiring process fairer.

No criminal record check before a job offer

As its name suggests, New York City’s “Ban the Box” law prohibits employers from including a checkbox in their application forms asking whether an applicant has a previous criminal record.

The Fair Chance Act provides this protection. The belief is that individuals should be judged first and foremost by their credentials and not have the door closed on them immediately simply because of their past.

An employer cannot carry out any screening of a candidate’s criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made. This includes asking the applicant directly and asking them if they’d give permission for the screening to take place.

Are there any exceptions?

The Fair Chance Act only applies to businesses in New York City that employ four or more people, except where exempt by law.

Employers can ask you about any pending criminal charges, felony convictions and unsealed misdemeanors.

If an employer makes you a conditional offer, they can only revoke this if your criminal history is directly related to the position you’ve applied for or if there would be an unreasonable risk to public safety if you were to be hired. In the circumstances, the employer will need to provide you with certain documents and give you the chance to respond.

Your criminal record should not prevent you from moving forward with your life, especially when you’re highly qualified. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against during the hiring process, you have protection under the law to take action.


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