PR: New Legislation to Give NYC Residents Fair Chance at Employment

Press Release | 4/29/14

New Legislation to Give NYC Residents Fair Chance at Employment

Fair Chance NYC Coalition Unveils Bold New City Council Legislation

(Photos from the press conference and rallies available online)

New York, NY Today a coalition of community, labor, and faith groups called Fair Chance NYC unveiled City Council legislation designed to ensure all New Yorkers have a fair chance at employment.

The legislation, called the Fair Chance Act, was introduced by Council Members Jumaane D. Williams, Corey Johnson, and Ritchie Torres, at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Fair Chance NYC includes: VOCAL-NY; 32BJ SEIU; Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW, Faith in New York, National Employment Law Project (NELP), and Community Service Society (CSS). Leaders of the coalition gathered today with elected officials at City Hall.

The legislation would remove unfair barriers to employment for people who have records or convictions but are clearly qualified to work. And it fits into a national trend of expanding access to employment as a way to lower recidivism and to give employers a broader range of candidates to consider for jobs.

The Fair Chance Act also helps businesses comply with laws that already exist federally, in the state, and in the city. These laws prevent people from being denied work unless there is a direct relationship between the conviction and the job. The Fair Chance Act empowers employers by making sure that they are able to consider all qualified applicants, rather than overlooking the person who might become their best employee. Large companies like Target and other businesses have already voluntarily stopped asking for criminal history information on their job applications.

“Everyone deserves a fair chance at finding a job, and a past conviction should not be a barrier for those seeking to get their lives back on track. Since 2011, pursuant to Executive Order 151, the City has ‘banned the box’ on job applications for City agencies. Fair hiring is good for our City and helps strengthen families and communities. That is why I introduced fair chance legislation as a council member and am keeping up the fight as Borough President. It is simply the right thing to do,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“I am proud to work with a vibrant group of elected officials to introduce the NYC Fair Chance Act. When enacted into law, the Fair Chance Act will ensure that all New Yorkers, including those with convictions for previous mistakes, will have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs that they qualify for. Though the legislation does not require employers to hire any particular applicant, it delays the background check, thus supplementing preexisting law that says employers cannot deny a job because of a record unless there is a direct relationship to the job. New York City must join the ranks of more than ten states and sixty cities, to give all applicants a fair chance. Not only does employment strengthen communities and lower recidivism, but employers will have access to a broader range of qualified candidates to consider,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, co-lead sponsor of the Fair Chance Act.

“Countless New York City residents stand to benefit from this commonsense and long overdue legislation. Too many talented people have been disqualified from employment opportunities and suffered discrimination because of a prior conviction or record. We should be making it easier, not harder, for businesses to find the best possible employees, and the Fair Chance Act will help do that. I am proud to be a lead co-sponsor of this legislation, which is supported by a diverse coalition of community, faith, policy, and labor organizations. It will make our city not only fairer but stronger,” said City Council Member Corey Johnson, co-lead sponsor of the Fair Chance Act.

“The stigma of a record is no reason to deprive someone of the ability to put food on the table or pay the rent. New Yorkers who have paid their debt in prison should have a second chance–indeed a fair chance at employment. The best way to reconnect the formerly incarcerated to society is to stop disconnecting them from the job market. The Fair Chance Act, which I am proud to co-sponsor and support, will do exactly that,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, a co-sponsor of the Fair Chance Act.

“When I came home from prison all I wanted was a fresh start for myself and my children. I applied for every job I could find and on every job application I was asked to disclose my criminal record history. I never got interviews and now, even after 10 years of no interaction with the police, I still struggle to find decent work. I know I am more than my criminal record and The Fair Chance Act will give me an opportunity to prove it,” said Marilyn Scales, a member of VOCAL-NY.  

“Job applicants should be evaluated on their present skills and experience first and their past mistakes second. New York law already prohibits employers from discriminating against people just because they have a record, but this law is undermined when most job applications ask for that information. The Fair Chance Act ensures applicants are given an opportunity to present their qualifications and address any concerns about their record before an employer makes a final decision,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society.

“Nearly a dozen states and over 60 cities and counties have passed similar legislation. New York City’s bill builds on that strong track record of success, and will help ensure that all New Yorkers have a fair chance to compete for work. The Fair Chance Act is good for workers and good for business. It will help expand economic opportunity for local residents while giving employers access to more and better applicants,” said Madeline Neighly, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project and an expert on similar legislation that has passed elsewhere in the country.

“This issue is important to our members, many of whom are people of color and belong to communities that are over-represented in the criminal justice system. This legislation would give people who have paid their debt to society the chance at a future that includes a good job and has the potential to help slow the cycle of poverty and mass incarceration,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU.

“People who have already been punished or disciplined should not be given an additional sentence in that they are unable to find employment.  We want them to work – it is fair for them and good for society.  The RWDSU supports the proposed Fair Chance NYC legislation,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW.

“As a clergy leader who ministers to formerly incarcerated people struggling to find a good job, I support the Fair Chance Act. It is one of many necessary steps needed to begin leveling a field that has been horribly tilted by a wave of mass incarceration that is devastating communities and families. More than an economic justice fight, the Fair Chance Act is about supporting people of color who are determined not to return to the place that had taken so much of their lives by removing a check mark of condemnation on their future even though they have paid their debt to society,” said Rev. Darren Ferguson, Pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Fair Rockaway, Queens, and a Faith in New York leader.

“We believe that everyone deserves a second chance and that formerly incarcerated individuals who have paid their debt to society should have the opportunity to seek employment. As people of faith we have a sense of moral urgency concerning the conditions of the formerly incarcerated, because our congregations are filled with individuals returning home from prison who want a chance for redemption,” said Onleilove Alston, a lead organizer at Faith in New York.

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Contact: Dan Morris, 917.952.8920

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