New York Governor Cuomo Announces Fair-Chance Hiring for State

New York City passed one of the most comprehensive fair hiring laws earlier this year. The NYC Fair Chance Act goes into effect on October 27th for private employers with four or more employees. And now the state has taken action through the executive office. This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that state agencies in New York will delay the inquiry into conviction history until later in hiring, joining 18 other states that have adopted similar policies.

The announcement comes as part of a package of reform. Governor Cuomo created a committee, the Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration in July 2014, tasked with identifying barriers formerly incarcerated people face and making recommendations to alleviate these barriers. He announced that all 12 of the recommendations that were made by the committee will be fully implemented and enforced by his administration. The recommendations address issues that cover employment, occupational licensing, housing and health care.

Significantly, one of the recommendations was to “adopt ‘fair chance hiring’ for New York State agencies.”  As explained in a press release about the policy change:

Applicants for competitive positions with New York State agencies will not be required to discuss or disclose information about prior convictions until and unless the agency has interviewed the candidate and is interested in hiring him or her. This is because employers unfortunately often do not look further at an applicant once they learn that the individual has a criminal conviction. As a consequence, many qualified New Yorkers are denied the opportunity to contribute in the job market, including in state service.

Removing the check-box from the job application is commonly known as “ban the box.” New York is the 19th state to implement a policy, along with nearly 100 cities and counties and the District of Columbia. New York joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia as a ban-the-box state.

Several national companies, including Starbucks, Koch Industries, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond, have similarly removed the conviction question from their initial application forms.

Commenting on the 12 recommendations adopted by his office, Governor Cuomo says, “New York is a state of opportunity, where individuals from all backgrounds and circumstances are given a fair chance to pursue their goals. The work of this Council increases the ability of our fellow citizens with criminal convictions to contribute positively to their families and communities, which creates a fairer and safer New York.”

Governor Cuomo is the fourth state leader just in 2015 that has taken executive action to delay conviction history inquiries, joining the governors from Georgia, Vermont, and Virginia.

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Michelle Natividad Rodriguez

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