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article imageNew York City restricts access to job seekers' criminal past

By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi     Oct 30, 2015 in Business
New York City - New York City employers can no longer ask about a potential employee's criminal history on a job application. The Fair Chance Act (FCA) was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 29 and went into effect on Tuesday, October 27.
The FCA restricts employers from including a question that appears on most job applications with a small box next to it: "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" The question is also banned from interviews. In the United States, 19 states and over 100 cities and counties have enacted ban-the-box policies. There are exceptions to the FCA mandate for employers that are required to conduct background checks per federal and local laws. Other exemptions are prospective law enforcement officers.
In New York, once a conditional offer of employment is made, employers are free to perform a background check. If a company decides to rescind the offer after the check, a "written copy of the inquiry" must be given to the applicant, along with a written copy of an analysis of the information in the report.
The applicant then has three days to respond to the analysis. Meanwhile, the employer has to hold the position open during this time. It's doubtful whether disputes will be waged against employers; if a felony record exists, it's an objective finding.
Per a Harvard study, job seekers who check off the "yes" box on applications are 50 percent less likely to get the job. Incarcerations, including those for non-violent offenses, disproportionately affect African American and Latino communities.
After convicted felons are released from prison, the recidivism rate is high, often because ex-offenders can't find a job. A Center for American Progress study notes both white male and female employment seekers with criminal records have better chances of finding jobs than blacks or Hispanics. However, all individuals who have served time in prison have decreased opportunities for employment when compared to non-offenders.
Brandon J. Holmes, a civil rights organizer at VOCAL-NY said, "This is huge. This is a monumental piece of legislation in New York City. This is some of the strictest fair chance/ban-the-box legislation anywhere in the United States," per a DNAInfo New York report.
Others view the bill as government interference. Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City said, “This bill is an example of ideology trumping practicality. There are many positions where employers must consider the background and criminal record of an applicant before offering a job. Wylde also noted that New York already has effective anti-discrimination laws that protect former prisoners from unfair practices and said exemptions that apply to government should also be available to private industry, reported the New York Daily News.
New York is the largest U.S. city that has adopted a ban-the-box hiring policy, and many former inmates view the FCA as the only open door to becoming productive members of society.
More about NYC, Criminal history, fair chance act, ban the box
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