New Requirements Could Be Coming to NYC's Ban the Box Law

By Michael Klazema on 5/27/2016

In October 2015, New York City's "Fair Chance Act," officially banning the box for all private and public employers operating within city limits went into effect. Under the law, businesses cannot ask questions about criminal history on job applications and must wait to conduct a background check on an applicant until after making a conditional offer of employment. Now that the law is in place, the New York City Commission on Human Rights wants to add new rules to the law. These changes, if approved, would require employers to adjust their processes for vetting their applicants further.

According to a report from the law website, the NYC Commission on Human Rights wants to impose several new rules upon employers regarding job applications. Already, private businesses in New York City have had to revise their job applications to remove questions about criminal history. If the Commission gets its wish, companies in the city would be legally barred from including language in their applications asking candidates to authorize future background checks. In fact, the rules would prohibit employers from even explicitly stating that there is a requirement for a background check for certain positions. That's not to say that there would be a ban on companies from actually requiring background checks; they just couldn't make that requirement clear on applications or job listings.

Instead, employers would have to approach candidates later in the process to inform them about background check requirements. Under the new rules, the background check itself wouldn't be the only thing delayed until after a conditional offer of employment. On the contrary, employers would have to extend a provisional offer before they could ask applicants to authorize a background check.

All of these requirements would apply to large corporations that use the same applications in various cities or states. Of course, not all areas have the same employment conditions as New York City. Most jurisdictions don't have “ban the box” legislation in place, and even those that do don't enforce some of the requirements that NYC's Commission on Human Rights does. As such, multi-state or multi-jurisdictional employees might include a disclaimer on their applications, telling NYC applicants that they don't have to provide information about their criminal histories or consent to background checks. The Commission's new requirements would render these disclaimers illegal, forcing multi-state employers to create entirely different applications for New York City candidates.

New York City's Fair Chance Act was a milestone because it represented a pledge to fight employment discrimination and criminal recidivism in the biggest city in the United States. However, these new requirements would do little to help ex-offenders find jobs. Eliminating the criminal history question from job applications makes sense because it means that employers aren't biased against individual candidates from the word go. Delaying the background check until after the conditional offer of employment also makes sense, because it gives ex-convicts a chance to prove themselves to employers before their past misdeeds get dragged into the conversation.

However, prohibiting employers from getting background check authorization until after extending an employment offer doesn't make sense. Nor does barring employers from stating in any capacity that background checks are a requirement for a job. While these rule changes might make it so that fewer ex-offenders are scared away from applying for certain jobs, it also could create a false sense of security for those applicants. Background checks are almost universally required for any job these days. Applicants—criminal record or no—deserve to know if they are going to have to pass a background check to get hired. There is no compelling reason to rob applicants of this valuable information.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has been mulling these rule change possibilities since February, so expect a final verdict soon.



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • December 11 The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General criticized a migrant youth detention center on the border for not running the proper background checks. Federal law requires the facility to screen all employees with FBI fingerprint checks.
  • December 06 In a bid to combat money laundering and illicit funding sources for terrorists flowing through the country's real estate sector, Singapore's government now mandates background checks for buyers purchasing properties prior to development.
  • December 04 What is a reference check? How does it vary from a work history check? We explore these questions and others.
  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
  • November 27 For hiring managers to verify the information provided on a resume, verification is essential.  Such is the purpose of employment history background checks.
  • November 27 California’s biggest public school district is waiving the cost of volunteer background checks. The move is meant to encourage more family - and community members to get involved with the school district.
  • November 22 Contractors play an important role in the workforce, delivering services to both individuals and organizations. Vetting contractors for suitability continues to be a challenge, as two recent articles prove.
  • November 21 When it comes to background and pre-employment checks, it can be instructive to look at the characteristics of the ten most massive U.S. employers.
  • November 21

    Verification checks are a powerful way to assess how truthful a job candidate has been on his or her application or resume. These checks can verify work history, education verification, professional licenses, and favorable personal qualities.