On Wednesday, June 10, the New York City Council passed the Fair Chance Act, which prevents private companies with four or more employees from discriminating against applicants based on their arrest or criminal record. Soon, applications will no longer be able to ask job seekers if they have been convicted of a crime. Bill sponsors say that the bill’s passage means there are now five million New Yorkers with prior convictions who will have a better shot at meaningful employment. A similar law is already on the books for NYC government hiring.
The vote makes NYC one of more than 100 U.S. cities to pass “ban the box” laws. Employers will be required to make a conditional job offer before they can ask about criminal history or run a background check. If a company decides to rescind an offer after learning more, it has to give the applicant a copy of the record and explain why, bearing in mind that the state of New York already has a law on the books that prohibits discrimination based on a criminal record. The position must then be held open for three days so that the applicant can question inaccuracies and provide information that might strengthen his hold on the position.
Ahead of the vote, bill co-sponsor Jumaane Williams explained to his colleagues that the legislation would “not hurt employers and it does not require them to hire any particular applicant.” He added that “delaying the background check will make it possible for qualified applicants who also happen to have a record to make it through the screening process.”
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio all but told local station NY1 that he will sign the bill. “For those who have paid their debt to society, we want them to be rehabilitated, we want them to reintegrate in society, they have to have economic opportunity. This legislation seeks to actually open the door to jobs for people rather than damning them to no economic future,” he said.