Posted January 20, 2016
New York, NY—The National Employment Law Project applauded New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his Civil Rights Bureau for taking action to reduce employment barriers for New Yorkers with criminal records.
The New York attorney general today announced a settlement with national retailers Big Lots and Marshalls, stemming from the two companies’ violations of a Buffalo, New York local law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history until after the initial application.
The companies each agreed to pay a fine and to remove the criminal history question from their employment applications for all stores in New York State.
“This settlement sends a signal to New York employers that the state’s chief legal officer has made it a priority to enforce laws intended to ensure fair access to employment,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “We agree with the attorney general that meaningful employment is often the most crucial factor in reducing recidivism among formerly incarcerated persons. Strong enforcement of local ‘ban the box’ laws like Buffalo’s helps ensure that every jobseeker has a fair chance at employment and can be judged on their qualifications and not dismissed because of the stigma of a record.”
This settlement reflects continued progress in New York to reduce barriers to employment for people with records, according to NELP. New York City passed one of the most comprehensive fair-hiring laws in June 2015. The NYC Fair Chance Act went into effect in October 2015 for private employers with four or more employees. Additionally, the state took action through the executive office in September 2015: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that state agencies in New York will delay the inquiry into conviction history until later in the hiring process. In total, 19 states have adopted such policies.
For a summary of the Buffalo law, as well as laws in other jurisdictions, see NELP’s guide to state and local fair-chance hiring laws.