New Bill to Tighten Restrictions on Employer Inquiry into Applicant Criminal Record

A new NYC Council bill proposes barring employers from asking job candidates if they have a criminal record, or have ever been convicted of a crime, and is expected to become law in New York City very soon.

The ‘Ban the Box’ bill would will essentially prohibit the widely used “check boxes” on job applications that ask about past convictions. Furthermore, the new legislation would prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until a conditional job offer has been offered.

A number of states have similar laws. For example, New Jersey’s recently passed a box-banning law that applies to businesses with 15 or more workers. According to sources, New York City will adopt a similar proposal and the law will likely apply to business with four or more employees.

Currently, an employee can legally reject an applicant because of a past conviction.  However, they must go through a mechanical process that, if not properly followed, is likely to result in unlawful discrimination. 

The Ban the Box bill would allow an applicant rejected because of a past crime seven days to respond. The job would have to be held open during that time. An employer’s failure to adhere to the process could lead to a fine of at least $1,000. In the bill’s current form, the business would bear the burden of proof in any resulting lawsuit by the job applicant.

Proponents say the proposed legislation is simply an extension of the New York state law requiring employers to go through a multi-step process to determine if an applicant’s past criminal behavior is related to the job being sought. However, the bill would not apply to employers in industries that work with vulnerable populations, such as children and seniors.

Currently, the Ban the Box bill has strong majority support — 35 co-sponsors out of the chamber’s 51 members, and is expected to be passed soon.

If you feel that you have been wrongfully denied an employment opportunity based on a criminal record, contact a New York City Employment Attorney.  An experienced attorney will afford you the representation you deserve and help you to protect your rights. 

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