New York City Mayor Signs "Ban the Box" Legislation in the Law

By Michael Klazema on 7/7/2015
It's official: New York City has banned the box for private employers, becoming the biggest city yet to take that step in the United States.

On Monday, June 28th, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presided over a bill-signing ceremony for the legislation at City Hall. He was joined by Jumaane Williams, the city councilman who sponsored the bill. The new legislation, dubbed the "Fair Chance Act," is designed to curb employment discrimination in NYC by giving those with a criminal history a better chance at competing for jobs. Private employers throughout the city will be required to remove questions about criminal history from their job applications and to delay criminal background checks until after a conditional job offer has been made.

For Mayor de Blasio, the bill really is about fairness. The politician noted that those with a criminal history are often turned down for jobs without thought or consideration. As a result, it's like ex-offenders are being punished all over again for past misdeeds, ”even when they've already long since served out any criminal sentences.

"This will open the door to jobs to New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society, rather than condemning them to constant economic struggle."

Councilman Williams echoed de Blasio's comments, calling the Fair Chance Act more than "just an employment bill," but also "a public safety bill" and a "criminal justice bill," "all wrapped into one." By giving ex-offenders a chance to find steady, gainful employment, the goal behind the new law is to reduce recidivism and prevent ongoing criminal activity.

For the most part, NYC's new "ban the box" legislation is similar to "ban the box" policies already on the books in other cities, counties, and states. Questions about criminal histories are off the table on applications, background checks are delayed until later in the interview process, and existing laws concerning criminal convictions and employment (such as the laws barring sex offenders from working in schools) preempt the rules laid forth by the "ban the box" law.

Still, Mayor de Blasio's signing of the Fair Chance Act is notable just for the fact that it is taking place in New York City. So far, of the top 30 most populous cities in the United States, only Chicago (number 3), Philadelphia (5), San Francisco (13), Seattle (20), Washington D.C. (22), and Baltimore (26) have banned the box for private employers. As the mostpopulous city in the United States, New York adds substantial heft to the "ban the box" and fair chance employment movements, and indicates an ever-growing belief that ex-offenders should have opportunities to rebuild their lives.


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