Tompkins County, New York Passes Legislation to Ban the Box

By Michael Klazema on 7/14/2016

Tompkins County has officially become the latest jurisdiction in the state of New York to ban the box for public employees. The county, which houses the city of Ithaca, is the third county and the 11th jurisdiction in New York to ban the box. The city of Ithaca previously banned the box for public employees. Other counties that have removed criminal history questions from county job applications include Dutchess County and Ulster County.

According to a report from, the Tompkins County Legislature took a vote on the new ban the box policy at a July 5th meeting. The policy received unanimous support from legislators and will be implemented as law "within the next two months."

Unlike with some other ban the box policies, the measure that has been approved in Tompkins County will not apply to every county position. For instance, the report notes that elected officials will still be expected to disclose criminal convictions upfront. This mandated disclosure requirement will remain in place thanks to New York's "Public Officers Law," which bars felons from taking elected positions and "places restrictions" on individuals whose records include misdemeanor offenses. The policy will also have no impact on the Ithaca City School District—presumably because the city's existing public ban the box policy will take precedent.

All other jobs in the Tompkins County public sphere will be impacted by the new policy. The policy will influence practices throughout the county not just for countywide services and departments but also for all cities, towns, and villages located within the county. The policy will apply to all school districts aside from Ithaca City School District. Employers will be asked to remove questions about criminal history from their job applications.

Based on recent reports, the policy won't require a background check as part of the screening process. With many ban the box policies, employers are barred from running background checks until they make an offer of employment. Once that offer has been extended, the employer is free to run a background check. The results can determine whether or not the employer keeps the offer of employment on the table or withdraws it due to a discovery.

According to the article, Tompkins County is different. Instead of only permitting employers to run background checks on finalists with employment offers, the county's policy would delay county employers from asking applicants about criminal history until the final round of screening. The ban the box policy gives the county room to ask finalists whether or not they have any criminal convictions on their records.

Candidates are expected to disclose their criminal history in the final stage of the screening process. The county's "personnel department" then looks at the convictions and weighs them in relation to the job or jobs at hand. If a conviction raises concern, an applicant might be disqualified. In cases in which the applicant has a criminal conviction on his or her record but is cleared by the personnel department, information about that person's criminal past would be kept secret. The information would stay in the hands of the personnel department and would not be passed to the department head in charge of making the final hiring decision.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • June 20 Repeat background checks are becoming more common, with companies in India leading the charge. What does this trend look like, and how can employers embrace it now to stay ahead of the curve?
  • June 19

    Every federal job involves a background check of some kind. These background checks and how they are evaluated vary based on job, department, and security clearance level.

  • June 18

  • June 14 Ban the box laws aim to improve opportunities for employment. Could they have the opposite effect instead?
  • June 13 Jacobs Petroleum Products is a regional petroleum company that operates throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Apart from their employees carrying much responsibility and have frequent contact with customers, the company’s hiring also tends to be segmented since individual store managers are responsible for hiring talent for their own stores. In this employment landscape, Jacobs Petroleum Products needed a reliable and effective way to screen its new hires for criminal infractions and other red flags.
  • June 12

    The University of Wisconsin System may tweak its hiring and reference check processes. The potential changes come after one of UW’s assistant deans was accused of sexual harassment.

  • June 07 Stories of abuse by coaches in youth sports leagues continue to crop up around the country, but rules and guidelines remain patchy and enforcement is often lacking. The struggle to implement an effective system continues nationwide.
  • June 07 Financial background checks, usually referred to as credit history checks, can be an effective way to find out if a candidate is fit to handle accounts, financial data, and other assets at your business.
  • June 06 The Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute recently commissioned a survey to find out how willing employers were to hire people with criminal records. The study indicates that managers, HR professionals, and employees themselves are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring and working with ex-offenders.
  • June 04 Are fingerprint background checks the gold standard for employee screening, or are they overhyped? We look at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these checks.