New York City Announces Charges Against Numerous Businesses for Illegal Job Application Questions

Here in New York State and New York City, the governments have a clear public policy that powerfully opposes discrimination in employment on a number of bases. These bases include, among other things, race, national origin, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. As of 2015, with the passage of the Fair Chance Act (FCA), another area of potential illegal discrimination is criminal history. Specifically, the act forbids many employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background prior to making an offer of employment. If you think you’ve suffered from illegal discrimination based upon your criminal history, it is important that you act quickly and decisively, including retaining skilled New York criminal conviction discrimination counsel, since you may be entitled to payment as a result of your potential employer’s misconduct.

Displaying the city’s commitment to enforcing this new area of anti-discrimination protection, the city’s Human Rights Commission recently announced charges against roughly a dozen businesses that allegedly engaged in hiring practices that violated the FCA, according to a New York Daily News report. Under the rules established by the FCA, employers are not forbidden to make inquiries into the criminal backgrounds of job applicants. The act simply bars employers from engaging in such background checks unless the applicant is someone to whom the employer has made an offer of employment. This is designed to give all applicants an enhanced opportunity to compete on an equal footing. The act, then, banned the practice of asking about criminal history on an initial employment application, also known as “banning the box.” The FCA also bans employers from asking about criminal history in the course of a job interview.

Once the employer has made an offer of employment, the employer is legally permitted to investigate an applicant’s criminal past. Even then, the FCA imposes rules regarding the process of making an inquiry. The act says that, if the employer discovers criminal charges in an applicant’s history and decides to withdraw the job offer based upon that record, the employer must communicate this in writing to the applicant and give the applicant three days to respond.

Some employers, such as employers with three or fewer employees, are exempt from the FCA, but most are not. The recent charges allege that several non-exempt employers violated the act in a similar way. Each employer had an item on its online employment application that asked about the applicant’s criminal background, which is a “no-no” under the act. The companies hit by the city’s charges include a world-renowned New York City landmark restaurant, a popular “dollar store” discount retailer, a major cosmetics company, and a casino, among others, the Daily News reported.

A spokesperson for the casino told the Daily News that its violation was an inadvertent oversight. The question was accidentally left on its online application form after the act took effect and, according to the spokesperson, was removed as soon as its presence was pointed out to the employer.

One popular website, an online compiler of crowd-sourced reviews for a variety of local businesses, has already incurred punishment from the city for violating the act. The website company ruled out an applicant based upon his having a previous misdemeanor conviction. The online business had not made an offer of employment to the man when it looked into, and found, the applicant’s misdemeanor past. The city’s action resulted in the employer paying a $10,000 fine to the city. The action also benefited the job applicant, to whom the employer paid another $20,000 as part of the FCA enforcement action, according to the Daily News report.

Whether you’re applying for work at your local dollar store or at the headquarters of an multinational corporation, you are entitled to certain anti-discrimination protections when you apply for employment in New York City. If you think you’ve lost out on employment due to illegal discrimination, reach out to the hardworking New York criminal conviction discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have been helping workers for many years fight for their rights when it comes to discrimination cases. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys right away to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

How Federal Employment Law Affects Discrimination in New York Based on Criminal History, New York Employment Attorney Blog, Oct. 25, 2017

Federal Agency Offers Guidance to Employers on Legal Requirements for Pre-Hiring Background Checks, New York Employment Attorney Blog, May 26, 2017

State Legislature Adds Juvenile Records to Prohibition on Criminal History Discrimination in Employment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 4, 2017


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