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New Law Restricts Ability Of Employers In Manhattan, NY To Ask Job Applicants If They Have Criminal Records

  • By: David Rich
  • Published: July 8, 2015

On June 29, 2015, the New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed, into law, the New York Fair Chance Act, Local 63 of 2015 (the “Fair Chance Act,” the “NYCFCA,” “Local Law 63” or the “new Law”), which takes effect on October 27, 2015. The Fair Chance Act prohibits most employers in Manhattan, other than employers in the securities industry, from asking an applicant for employment, either orally or on an employment application, about his or her arrest history or criminal record until after the employer has made, to the applicant, a conditional offer of employment.

Because statutes such as the NYCFCA effectively require employers to remove, from their employment applications, any check box that asks whether the applicant has a criminal conviction, such statutes are often termed “ban-the-box” laws.

Under Local Law 63, once an employer in Manhattan, NY has extended, to a prospective employee, a conditional offer of employment, (i) the employer may require the prospective employee to complete an employment application that inquires about the prospective employee’s arrest history or criminal record, and (ii) the employer may inquire, orally or in writing, about the prospective employee’s criminal history.

However, the NYCFCA requires that, before the employer declines to hire an applicant for employment based on such an inquiry about the applicant’s arrest history or criminal conviction record, the employer must:

Local Law 63 amends sections 8-102 and 8-107 of New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 – 8-131.

The Fair Chance Act applies to employers in the private sector in Manhattan, NY which employs four or more individuals. Further, the NYCFCA applies to State and municipal governments and agencies in Manhattan which employ 15 or more individuals. The new Law does not apply to the U.S. government.

The new Law’s prohibition of employers in Manhattan, NY from requesting the arrest history or criminal conviction record of a job applicant before making, to the applicant, a conditional offer of employment does not apply to employers that are required, by federal, state or local law or by a self-regulatory organization (an “SRO”) as defined by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, to perform criminal background checks for employment purposes or to prohibit employment based on criminal history.

Thus, for example, employers in the securities industry remain free to consider consumer credit history for employment purposes.

Firms in the securities industry fall within Local Law 63’s above-mentioned, ‘required by law’ exemption because the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”), an SRO, requires firms in the securities industry “to ascertain by investigation the good character, business repute, qualifications, and experience” of a job applicant before the firm applies to register that applicant with FINRA. See FINRA R. 3110(e); see also Disclosure Questions 14A and 14B of the Form U-4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer) (asking prospective employees in the securities industry about criminal convictions and criminal charges).

Among other exceptions, the NYCFCA permits a business in Manhattan, NY, even before the employer has extended, to a job applicant, a conditional offer of employment, to make the applicant complete an employment application that asks about the applicant’s arrest record or criminal record, and to ask, orally or in writing, about the applicant’s arrest record or criminal record, if the employment sought or being considered is:

  • for a position in law enforcement, corrections, or the court system; or
  • for certain positions within the New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Local Law 63 also bars employers in Manhattan, NY from knowingly declaring, printing or circulating, or causing to be declared, printed, or circulated, any job advertisement that expresses, directly or indirectly, that employment is conditioned or limited based on an applicant’s arrest or criminal conviction, unless the advertisement solicits applicants for one of the above-described, exempt positions.

Workers or job applicants whose employers or prospective employers in the private sector discriminate against them based on their arrest record or criminal conviction record, like employees aggrieved by other discriminatory practices made unlawful by the New York City Human Rights Law, may sue their employers for and may recover, among other remedies, non-capped compensatory damages, punitive damages, and, if they prevail and at the court’s discretion, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-502(a), 8-502(g).

Seven states have passed legislation that limits the ability of employers in the private sector to make job applicants disclose their criminal histories. These states are New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

If your company needs assistance or guidance on a labor or employment law issue and your company is located in the Manhattan, NY area, call Attorney David S. Rich at (347) 970-5550.


David Rich, Esq.

David Rich David S. Rich is the founding member of the Law Offices of David S. Rich, LLC,
a Manhattan Employment and Business Litigation Law Firm, in New
York City and in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey...View Profile