Every state has certain restrictions and limitations that employers must follow when running background checks and accessing criminal records for hiring purposes. New York has numerous rules employers should be aware of before conducting any form of background screening. Below, we have outlined the most significant regulations.
Ban the Box
In 2015, New York’s governor signed a bill into law that banned the box for state agencies. The legislation made New York the fourth state to adopt fair-chance employment policies. The law applies to state employers and bars those agencies from asking candidates about criminal history until after conducting an interview.
While the state policy only bans the box for public employment agencies, it is not the only law of its sort on the books in New York. In 2015, New York City passed an ordinance called the Fair Chance Act. This policy applies to city employers, private businesses, and licensing agencies with more than four employees. It not only bars the use of criminal history questions on job applications but also prohibits employers from running background checks until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
Other localities in the state have also adopted ban the box policies. Albany County, Duchess County, Ithaca, Kingston, Newburgh, Syracuse, Tompkins County, Ulster County, Woodstock, and Yonkers all have policies that ban the box for public employers (Syracuse’s policy extends the coverage to government contractors). Along with NYC, both Buffalo and Rochester have ban the box policies that apply to city agencies, vendors or contractors, and private companies.
Note that this New York state criminal history check will not yield any details pertaining to credit history. Employers thinking about supplementing this check with a credit history check should be aware that legislation in New York City prohibits this practice in most cases. Employers in NYC are not allowed to request or use consumer credit reports at any point during the hiring process.
This legislation only applies to the city and is not relevant to employers in other parts of the state.
Arrests and Convictions
Any employer with more than four employees is legally barred from considering any arrests that did not lead to conviction. This New York state background check does not include arrest history information, in part to protect employers from this risk.
Employers can use conviction histories in their hiring decisions but are restricted in how they do so. Under state law, any public employer with ten or more employees can only deny a candidate based on criminal history if 1) the conviction in question bears a direct relationship to the job at hand; or 2) if the conviction indicates an “unreasonable risk” to property, employee safety, or the best interests of the public.
To make such determinations, employers are expected to look at numerous factors when considering a conviction as a bar to employment. Such factors include (but are not limited to) the responsibilities of the job in question, the seriousness of the crime, and the age of the person when he or she committed the crime.