The County Board of Legislators for West Chester, NY voted to pass a bill known as the Fair Chance to Work Law.
About The Bill
Lawmakers in Westchester County, New York, proposed a Ban the Box (BtB) bill in 2018. After several meetings and reviews, it was passed on December 3. The description of this bill says it is a "LOCAL LAW amending Chapter 700 of the Laws of Westchester County in relation to prohibiting discrimination based on one's arrest record or criminal conviction."
This law affects employers with four or more employees. Covered employers are prohibited from asking job seekers about arrest records or criminal convictions during the early portion of the hiring process or on applications. They are also disallowed from discriminating against applicants for having any type of arrest record or conviction.
Background Checks For Westchester Employers
Employers in Westchester are still permitted and encouraged to run background checks on candidates who are being considered open positions. Background reports are used to help employers:
* Create a safe workplace.
* Confirm a candidate meets the position requirements and has the skills/experience needed to succeed.
* Perform due diligence by demonstrating they are checking for serious criminal convictions that indicate the candidate could be a risk.
Simply having a conviction does not make an applicant ineligible for hire. Westchester employers will use background checks to see if a candidate has a reportable criminal history. If records are returned they must then be reviewed and assessed individually. Employers are required use Article 23-A of the New York State Correction Law when deciding if a conviction might warrant denial of employment.
If an employer in Westchester takes an adverse action without following the guidelines established by the Fair Chance to Work Law, then the affected candidate may have the right to pursue compensatory damages. This includes (but is not limited to):
* Actual damages.
* Back pay.
* Front pay.
* Attorney fees and expenses.
* Additional compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress.
Employers everywhere must also follow the federally mandated adverse action process.
Exemptions To The Fair Chance to Work Law
In certain cases, Westchester employers are allowed to run background checks immediately or inquire about criminal records at the start of the hiring process. Exemptions exist for schools, law enforcement agencies and government offices.
All other employers in Westchester must adhere to the Ban the Box law.
About Ban The Box
Ban the Box laws are part of a growing Second Chance movement in the United States. The purpose is to help individuals who have outdated or minor convictions find employment. In the past, people who had any type of arrest or conviction were unlikely to receive any consideration from hiring managers.
While Ban the Box laws are not consistent from place to place, their goals are typically to:
* Increase the pool of qualified job seekers.
* Allow people who have served their time an opportunity to re-enter the workforce.
* Reduce the rate of recidivism.
To learn more about new and upcoming bills, follow this blog and check our State Laws section periodically.
Best Practice For Employers
Even if no Ban the Box or Second Chance laws are currently active where you operate, one could be passed in the coming years. Best practice is to remove questions about convictions from all job applications now. Employers should also document at what point during their hiring process a background check will be run. All hiring and background screening policies should be reviewed and approved by legal counsel before being implemented.
When running background checks, it is essential to only review reportable records that can legally be used to make informed business decisions. Backgrounds Online is an accredited Consumer Reporting Agency that provides FCRA-compliant reports. To learn how we can help you customize background checks for any type of position so you can build strong teams and reduce risk, please contact us. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.