The Fair Chance Act is a New York City ordinance that limits when an employer can ask about a job applicant’s criminal history. Employers sometimes reject job applicants because of their criminal history. This practice makes it difficult, if not impossible, for those who’ve paid their debt to society after being convicted of a crime to find a job.
In some cases, employers directly ask a job applicant if he or she has ever been convicted of a crime. In other cases, applicants must fill out an application in which they must check “yes” or “no” when asked if they’ve been convicted of a crime. If you’ve been rejected from a job opportunity because of a criminal conviction or convictions, our legal team can help. You might be entitled to remedies. Contact the experienced New York City employment lawyers at Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule your initial consultation.
Understanding New York City’s Fair Chance Act
New York City enacted the Fair Chance Act on October 27th, 2015. The policy goal behind the Fair Chance Act is to prevent New York City employers from discriminating against applicants who are qualified for the job based on their prior criminal record. Specifically, the Fair Chance Act makes it illegal for businesses to ask a job applicant about his or her criminal history until the employer has extended an offer of employment to the job applicant.
The Fair Chance Act only protects job applicants who apply for jobs at businesses with four or more employees. After this law passed, hiring personnel who make decisions about whether to hire or reject job applicants must be extremely careful about denying an applicant based on his or her criminal history.
If you’ve applied for a job and the interviewer asked you about your criminal history, you might have a right to file a complaint against the company. Job applications that state “no felonies” or “background check required” are also prohibited by the Fair Chance Act.
What Happens If the Employer Asks About Your Criminal History?
If the potential employer does choose to ask about your criminal history, and then rejects your application before making a conditional job offer, they are likely in violation of the Fair Chance Act. After an employer makes a conditional job offer, the employer may ask questions about the criminal history of the applicant. With the applicant’s permission, the employer may conduct a criminal background check.
After receiving the results of the background check, the employer can decide whether or not the applicant’s criminal record is directly related to the job. If hiring the applicant would pose a risk to their person or property, they must provide a written explanation. Employers who reject a potential applicant after asking about their criminal history will need to explain their decision in writing to avoid penalties under the Fair Chance Act.
The employer must be able to effectively connect the applicant’s criminal record history to specific job duties in writing. Or, the employer needs to show in writing that hiring the employee creates an unreasonable risk. Finally, employers must keep the job opportunity in question open for at least three days after interviewing the applicant. This ensures that the potential employee has enough time to discuss the issue of the criminal record or correct any wrong information.
What Constitutes an “Inquiry” About Your Criminal History?
Determining whether or not an employer inquired into your criminal history is an important part of seeking restitution and compensation through the Fair Chance Act. New York City employers are now aware of the provisions of the Fair Chance Act. Many have figured out clever ways to try to figure out whether or not a job applicant has criminal convictions on his or her record. For example, an employer might ask an employee to provide a chronological overview of his or her work history.
There are other ways that employers try to get around the prohibitions of the Fair Chance Act. They might ask an applicant to explain whether there are any gaps in his or her employment. Nonetheless, employers are prohibited from asking direct questions about an applicant’s criminal history either in writing on a job application or verbally in an interview before a conditional job offer.
An inquiry also includes searching publicly available records of the applicant’s criminal history. For example, an interviewer could not end and interview and do a Google search for an applicant’s name and any criminal history. Likewise, employers cannot look up information regarding the applicant’s possible criminal history until they issue a conditional job offer.
Factors that Employers Can Consider After Making a Conditional Job Offer
Employers should consider the specific responsibilities and duties of the job and whether or not the applicant’s history prevents him or her from performing these duties. They should also consider how long ago the offense happened, the seriousness of the offense, and the applicant’s age at the time of the conviction. Employers can also consider their legitimate interests, such as protecting their property, protecting specific individuals, or protecting the general public.
Exceptions to the Fair Chance Act in New York City
There are several notable exceptions to the Fair Chance Act. First, employers who have a mandate to provide background checks on applicants before hiring them can ask about an applicant’s criminal history. All employers who have a local, state, or federal mandate to provide background checks on potential applicants may do so.
Many of these employers involve handling money or finances, working with children, or gaining access to highly sensitive information through a government position. Employers that hire for positions that involve public peace-keeping personnel, law enforcement agencies, and police officers may also ask about an applicant’s criminal history.
Contact Our Experienced New York City Employment Lawyers Today
If you suspect or know that a company rejected or turned you away from a job opportunity due to your criminal record, you could be entitled to restitution and compensation. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our skilled employment discrimination lawyers understand how challenging it can be for New York City employees to face additional obstacles to finding employment. Our law firm represents clients throughout New York City. After thoroughly reviewing your case, we can guide you through each step of the claims process while protecting your rights. Contact us today.