New York City Bans the Box: Mayor de Blasio Signs Fair Chance Act

On Monday, June 29, 2015, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Fair Chance Act, New York City’s version of “ban-the-box” legislation. The law gives people with criminal records a fairer shot at employment by prohibiting employers from asking about criminal convictions until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Dozens of advocates, activists and community members were at City Hall to witness this historic moment. Sponsored by City councilmember Jumaane Williams and co-sponsored by a long-list of other councilmembers, the Fair Chance Act, which passed with overwhelming support, will officially take effect on October 27th. Advocates from our partners at the Community Service Society, VOCAL-NY, and the National Employment Law Project played key roles in developing the legislation and moving it forward.

By adopting this legislation, the City joins a growing number of cities and states across the country that have enacted such laws. New York’s law is among the strongest of these bills yet enacted. At the signing, Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor, stated that the bill would provide New York City with millions of dollars in new revenue through increased income-taxes as a result of new jobs and better wages. The law will benefit millions of New Yorkers who have a criminal record and suffer the collateral consequences. Their families, communities and the whole city also will be better off.

Finding and keeping a good job is one of the most common yet difficult challenges to overcome for someone reintegrating into society. Gainful employment enables a person to obtain stable housing, provide for their families, relieve over-burdened social services agencies, and pay child-support, restitution and other fines associated with criminal justice involvement.

This legislation will benefit employers by providing them with access to a larger pool of qualified candidates. It does not prevent employers from asking about a criminal record. It merely delays the question to after the employer has made a conditional offer.

The Fair Chance Act compliments New York State’s Correction Law Article 23-A, which for forty years has banned employment discrimination based on a criminal record. The Fair Chance Act’s transparency requirements will help ensure that employers act in accordance with this long-existing law.

Some of the key aspects of the bill include:

New York City employers may ask about job applicants’ pending arrests or criminal convictions only after making a conditional offer of employment.   After the conditional offer, employers may ask about pending arrests and criminal convictions only if they do the following before denying employment:

  • give the applicant a written copy of the question,
  • analyze the criminal record consistent with New York’s anti-discrimination laws (i.e. Article 23-A and the New York State Human Rights Law)
  • give the applicant a written copy of that analysis, along with any documents the employer used in making its decision and the reasons for the decision,
  • give the applicant a “reasonable time” (at least three days) to respond and keep the job open during that time.
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