Anton Nilsson | October 27, 2015
NEW YORK CITY — New York’s civil rights organizations celebrated Tuesday as a new piece of legislation took effect, limiting when employers in New York City can ask job applicants about their criminal pasts.
The Fair Chance Act, which was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 29 and went into effect Oct. 27, makes it unlawful for employers to ask job seekers about their criminal records prior to making a conditional offer of employment.
After a job offer has been made, the employer has the right to inquire about the applicant’s criminal history. If the job offer is retracted, the employer has to supply the applicant with a written explanation as well as a copy of any background checks. The employer also needs to keep the position open for three days after supplying the material, to give the applicant a fair chance to respond.
A 2004 Harvard study found that job applicants who declared criminal convictions when applying for jobs were about 50 percent less likely to get a callback than those who didn’t.
“This is huge,” said Brandon J. Holmes, civil rights organizer at the community organization VOCAL-NY.
“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,” Holmes told DNAinfo New York.
Paul Samuels, president of the Legal Action Network, called the bill “a big step forward,” but cautioned that “there is still work to be done in New York and throughout the country,” mentioning access to housing and health care among remaining barriers to the formerly incarcerated.
A rally was held Tuesday in front of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal where activists from VOCAL-NY, the Fortune Society, and other civil rights groups celebrated the law going into effect, organizers said.