It is no surprise that individuals convicted of a crime experience hardships when looking for employment. However, can an employer deny an applicant simply based on the fact that the applicant is an ex-con? Earlier this April, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reminded mega-store Bed Bath & Beyond that those types of discriminatory hiring practices are illegal in New York.
During the investigation, Schneiderman’s office found Bed Bath & Beyond automatically disqualified job applicants with felony convictions without evaluating their criminal records individually, as required by state law.
Under New York law, employers are barred from automatically disqualifying any prospective hire on the basis of a criminal record and require a more individualized assessment into the job applicant. A company must still look at the nature of a past crime and responsibilities of the particular job in considering an ex-offender.
As a result of the findings, Bed Bath & Beyond has agreed to stop rejecting job-seeking ex-cons without any further consideration and has agreed to pay $125,000 in fines. Most of the money will be disseminated to various organizations providing job training and placement services for convicts, while $40,000 will be set aside for restitution awards for individuals who were unlawfully denied employment with the company under its old practices.
The settlement doesn’t include an admission of wrongdoing, said Leah Drill, a spokeswoman for the company. “Bed Bath & Beyond is committed to complying with the laws and regulations governing our business, including state and federal employment laws,” she said. “We are in agreement with the attorney general that employment opportunities should remain open to individuals with criminal histories that have been rehabilitated.”
New York State has set various protections into place that make discrimination for prior convictions illegal. With the exception of law enforcement jobs, pursuant to New York Law, employers that employ a particular number of workers are disallowed from discriminating against an employee solely due to the employee’s criminal conviction record unless: 1) there is a direct relationship between the prior conviction and job sought; or 2) hiring the employee is going to be an unreasonable risk to property or will pose a safety issue.
If you or a loved one believe that you have been a victim of unfair employment discrimination as a result of your criminal conviction history, contact an experienced employment attorney. A skilled employment attorney can afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.