New York City Moves to Ban the Box for All Employers

By Michael Klazema on 6/17/2015

The Fair Chance hiring movement appears to have scored a real coup, as New York City moves ahead with a plan to "ban the box" for private employers. In early June, the New York City Council voted on the Fair Chance Act, a piece of legislation that would prevent private employers in the city from asking questions about applicants' criminal history. The proposal passed with a vote of 45-5.

New York City already has "ban the box" policies in place for public employees and contractors. All city offices have subsequently removed questions about criminal convictions from their job applications. However, up until now, private companies operating in the city have not been required to change their practices in similar fashion. In fact, the list of jurisdictions that ban the box for private employers is still a short one at this point in time. That list does include major cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco, but "ban the box" policies still have a long way to go before they become universal.

Still, the movement of the New York City Council to pass the Fair Chance Act is a huge win for supporters of the "ban the box" movement. New York is the biggest city yet to ban the box for private employers, making it clear just how much steam the Fair Chance hiring movement has gathered in the past few years. Supporters of "ban the box" legislation argue that these policies help to curb discrimination in the employment process by delaying the discovery of criminal history until after the initial interview (and often, until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended). In turn, supporters of "ban the box" policies say that the legislation can make it easier for ex-offenders to re-insert themselves back into society, thereby curbing recidivism.

New York City's new "ban the box" policies will apply to all NYC-based businesses that employ four or more people. It doesn't matter if the employees work remotely outside of the city, nor does it matter if they are considered contractors instead of full-time employees. In essence, any company that pays more than three people for their work will have to abide by New York City's new "ban the box" rules.

The Fair Chance Act is unlikely to see much protest from here on out. Mayor Bill de Blasio has publicly pledged to sign the legislation without delay. Since the legislation will go into effect 120 days after de Blasio endorses it with his signature, New York City could be completely free of criminal-related job application questions by the end of the year.


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