Westchester County has joined a growing movement to eliminate workplace discrimination against people with criminal records by “banning the box.”
What is “ban the box” legislation?
Many employment applications traditionally included a box that applicants must check to indicate whether they have been convicted of a crime. Checking the box often excludes people with criminal records from being considered for the position at all.
Westchester County recently joined cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and New York City to enact a “ban the box” law. Of course, the law addresses more than just an actual box on an application form; employers will no longer be able to set aside a job candidate by inquiring about prior arrests or convictions on applications or during the interview process. Employers also cannot mention criminal convictions in job postings or when marketing for the position. Essentially, the criminal history question is removed from initial hiring processes.
Criminal background checks still allowed
The law does not prevent employers from conducting criminal background checks on potential employees when making a conditional job offer. However, it does mandate that specific protocols be followed for those with records. Before disqualifying an applicant due to criminal past, employers are now required to review eight factors under the guidelines set by Article 23-A of New York’s Correction Law.
While a criminal history can have a legitimate impact on the hiring process, candidates who are rejected must receive a written analysis of why the employer considered them unsuitable. Under the statute, employers retain the right to refuse applicants with criminal records when a correlation exists between the type of work and the crime committed. For instance, a private security company could theoretically reject a former burglar, or a trucking company could deny a habitual drunk driver, depending on the timing and circumstances of the convictions.
We previously wrote about how some companies violated ban the box laws after they were enacted in 2015 in New York City. Without taking steps to adhere to the new law, employers in Westchester County may unwittingly do the same.