New York City Moves to Implement Fair-Chance Hiring Law

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In 2015, New York City passed one of the strongest fair-chance hiring laws in the country, the Fair Chance Act. This law not only includes a “ban the box” component that delays the inquiry into conviction history until the employer has made a conditional job offer, but also includes clear guidance for employers on how to assess a job applicant’s conviction history.

On March 21, 2016, the city’s Commission on Human Rights, the agency that enforces the Fair Chance Act, holds a hearing on proposed rules to implement the Fair Chance Act. NELP, along with many of our allies, is submitting comments to the Commission.

In NELP’s comments, we praise the proposed rules and the underlying law, the Fair Chance Act, since it contains many of the fair-chance enforcement best practices that we recommend. But there is always room for improvement. So we suggest ways that the rules can be even stronger and provide more information to jobseekers and the public about how the law is working:

  • Outline the complaint process for jobseekers and consider how to incentivize jobseekers to come forward, such as directing some portion of the penalty funds or damages to complainants;
  • Take advantage of New York City’s rich infrastructure of community groups that have trusted relationships with the jobseekers this law is intended to help; and
  • Lay out how the Commission will document complaints and track and report on employer compliance with the Fair Chance Act, so that all parties that want to see this law work can assess its effectiveness.

Our work as advocates is not done when a law gets passed; we have to stay engaged to ensure strong enforcement of the law and that the intended beneficiaries are actually seeing the benefits. We’re pleased to be partnering with VOCAL NY and the Community Service Society of New York to continue working with city officials and educating the public about the Fair Chance Act, so that the law translates into tangible improvements in peoples’ lives.

There’s strong momentum around the country for fair-chance hiring reform. There are now 21 states with a ban-the-box or fair-chance hiring law or policy, in addition to the more than 100 local jurisdictions (see NELP’s state and local ban-the-box guide for details) and a similar policy at the federal level.

As always, the key is enforcement and continuing to push for more and better. The New York State Attorney General’s Office, for example, announced a settlement earlier this year with two national retailers for violations of a local ban-the-box law. Philadelphia recently amended and strengthened its existing fair-chance hiring law, moving toward practices that will make the law more fair and effective.

In New York City, now comes the time for city officials and advocates to get the word out about the new law and hold violators accountable. The fight for fairness and justice continues.

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