Ban the Box Legislation Spreads

According to recent reports, one in four adults in the United States now has a criminal conviction or arrest record that affects their ability to find employment.  Against this backdrop, cities and even some states are taking action to make it easier for those with convictions to at least get a foot in the door.

Rochester recently joined Buffalo in prohibiting employers from asking about criminal convictions on a job application.  Under the Rochester Municipal Law, an employer may still ask questions about convictions during an interview and may still conduct a background check, but may not ask about criminal convictions on the application form.  Buffalo’s law similarly prohibits inquiring about criminal convictions on the application.  Both laws have exceptions for certain types of employment, including those where a state or federal law prohibits the employer from hiring someone with a criminal conviction.

New York City government stopped asking about criminal convictions on applications in 2011 (with some exceptions, including police officers).  There is currently legislation pending to expand the restriction to private employers.

Outside of New York, several states and municipalities have enacted similar legislation.  Employers, particularly those with multiple locations, should be aware that such legislation may exist and should ensure they consider not only the regulations in their home-base, but also where their branch offices are located.

Article written by Ms. Dawn J. Lanouette, partner at Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP.  Please contact Ms. Lanouette directly at 607-231-6917 or dlanouette@hhk.com for additional information.

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