Emma Bracy | October 29th, 2015
New Yorkers applying for jobs will no longer be required to disclose a criminal history, thanks to new legislation.
The Fair Chance Act (FCA) amends New York City Civil Rights Law, thus prohibiting most employers from inquiring about criminal history until after a conditional offer for employment has been extended.
Activists say the legislation passed on Tuesday is the most progressive law of its type in the country, and the most far-reaching because New York is the largest city where a policy like this has been enacted.
“The legislation comes out of the need to open the door to employment for people who are formerly incarcerated and have criminal records,” Alyssa Aguilera, Political Director for Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders [VOCAL-NY] told The Independent.
VOCAL-NY is a grassroots community organizing group that organises folks who are impacted by mass incarceration, among others.
“We estimate about 2.5m people in NY have criminal records, so it’s going to have a really big impact on the that way people in the city get work, and particularly communities that have been negatively impacted by mass incarceration and over-criminalisation,” Ms Aguilera said.
The New York law is not the first of its kind, and is part of the larger movement pushing for fair chance hiring policies dubbed “Ban the box.” To date, 19 states and over 100 cities and counties have laws on the books that block some employers from including a checkbox on job applications that ask about conviction history.
Senator Cory Booker introduced a federal Fair Chance Act into Congress last month. Some have called this step a more simple sort of ban the box policy, because it removes the felony question from job applications, but it does not stop companies from asking about criminal histories before making a job offer.
Ms Aguilera said that “you can’t fully end mass incarceration until you also end the collateral consequences associated with a conviction, and [the NYC Fair Chance Act] is a part of those efforts.”