For too long, employers in New York often made it clear they wouldn’t hire people with criminal histories. This despite the fact that, since 1976, New York law has actually prohibited employers from discriminating against job seekers with criminal records, unless the conviction is directly related to the job or hiring the individual would pose a risk.
But because employers could still include questions about applicants’ criminal records on job applications, many qualified individuals were left with just two options, neither of them good. Check the “yes” box, and don’t expect a call back, or leave it unchecked to at least get an interview, only to be denied or terminated later for lying on the application. As a result, millions of New Yorkers with conviction histories were being systematically denied a fair chance to move forward with their lives, support themselves and their families, and contribute to the economy.
That changed on June 29, 2015 when Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Fair Chance Act. This historic piece of legislation prevents employment discrimination based on involvement in the criminal justice system.
CSS President & CEO David Jones (L) with Bill deBlasio and Paul Keefe
CSS is proud to have been the primary legal advocate behind the new law with Associate Counsel Paul Keefe one of its main authors. Our successful campaign for passage by the New York City Council included partners at the National Employment Law Project (NELP), SEIU Local 32BJ, Vocal New York, and Faith in New York. Lead sponsors of the bill included Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Ritchie Torres, and Corey Johnson; along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The law goes into effect on October 27, 2015 and will apply to all employers with four or more employees. It stands to be one of the strongest laws of its kind in the country.
With passage of the Fair Chance Act, New York City joins twelve states and more than 100 cities and counties that have passed similar statutes. Removing barriers to success for people qualified to work lowers recidivism, provides employers with a wider range of candidates to consider, and helps strengthen communities of color in our city which are home to more than half of released state prisoners.