Rochester, New York Bans the Box

By Michael Klazema on 6/4/2014

Ordinance Number 2014-155 applies to the City of Rochester, its vendors, or any entity that employs four or more persons in any position for which the primary place of work is located within the City of Rochester. It includes not-for-profit corporations, associations, and employment agencies or other placement or referral agencies.

The ordinance makes it unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to make any inquiry regarding, or to require any person to disclose or reveal, any criminal conviction during the application process. The application process is deemed to begin when the applicant inquires about the employment sought and ends when an employer has conducted an initial employment interview or has made a conditional offer of employment. If an employer does not conduct an interview, it must inform the applicant whether a criminal background check will be conducted before employment begins. The ordinance also specifically prohibits employers from asking at any time for applicants to disclose information about any arrest that resulted in a Youthful Offender Adjudication, any arrest that was processed as a Juvenile Delinquency proceeding in Family Court, or any arrest or conviction that was sealed.

Exceptions to the ordinance include inquiries that are specifically authorized by any other applicable law, and positions where certain convictions are a bar to employment. The City Police and Fire departments are also exempt from the new ordinance.

The City’s Corporation Counsel may bring an action to restrain or prevent a violation, or continued violation, of the Fair Employment Screening Article. The Counsel may assess a penalty of $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, a civil action or proceeding may be brought against an employer for an alleged violation. In these cases, the court may grant costs and reasonable attorney fees, as well as damages, and other relief it deems appropriate.

The City of Rochester joins New York City and the City of Buffalo in passing ban-the-box ordinances. We will continue to monitor this topic, and report any new ban-the-box city ordinances or state laws as they are passed.

City Ordinance 2014-155 (May 20th Council Legislation Passed, pgs. 125-129):

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