Today, Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed a bill (Int. No. 318) that amends the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) to further restrict employers (with four or more employees) from inquiring into or otherwise considering an applicant’s or employee’s criminal history in employment decisions.  The new NYC law will take effect on October 27, 2015.

As we detailed in our prior post, the new NYC law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on an initial employment application (“ban the box”) and at any time prior to extending a conditional offer of employment.  The new NYC law also forbids employers from stating on any job advertisement or other solicitation or publication that employment is conditioned or limited based on an applicant’s arrest or conviction history.

For years, before an NYC employer could take adverse action on the basis of criminal history, it had to first engage in a multi-factor analysis under Article 23-A of the New York State Correction Law to determine whether a sufficient nexus exists between the offense and position sought.  Now, under the new NYC law, before taking adverse action the employer also must:

  • furnish a written copy of the criminal history inquiry to the applicant in a form determined by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”);
  • provide a written Article 23-A analysis to the applicant in a form determined by the NYCCHR, together with “supporting documents” setting forth the basis and reasons for the adverse action; and
  • after providing the applicant with the required documentation, allow him or her at least three business days to respond and, during that time, hold the position open for the applicant.

To redress violations of the new NYC law, aggrieved applicants and employees may file a complaint with the NYCCHR or in court, with the promise of lucrative remedies under the NYCHRL.

The new NYC law does not apply where the employer must take action pursuant to any federal, state, or local law that requires criminal background checks for employment purposes or bars employment based on criminal history.  For purposes of this exception, “federal law” includes the rules or regulations of a self-regulatory organization as defined by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (like FINRA).  The new NYC law also excepts various public employment positions.

NYC now joins a growing number of jurisdictions across the nation that have “banned the box” and otherwise regulated employer use of criminal history in hiring and other personnel decisions.  To ensure compliance with the new NYC law, employers should start to review and, where necessary, make changes to their background check procedures and forms.

Katharine Parker and Daniel Saperstein are Co-Chairs of Proskauer’s Hiring & Background Checks Group.