Businesses would be banned from asking job applicants about their criminal records under a proposed city law.
The bill, which will be introduced this week, would prohibit commonly used check boxes on applications asking if the job seeker has been convicted of a crime, or any questions about the job seeker’s criminal record until after a job offer has been made.
“It’s extremely difficult for people who have convictions to get jobs,” said sponsor Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn). “It’s disheartening. If you’ve paid your debt to society, you should not have to do that again.”
Employers could be hit with $1,000 in damages if they asked about an applicant’s criminal record too soon.
The city already bars asking about convictions for government jobs, but the new bill would extend the mandate to all employers.
Co-sponsor Ritchie Torres, whose half-brother, whom he has met only once, is in federal prison for his role in running a drug and extortion gang in the Bronx, said ex-inmates who can’t find jobs are more likely to revert to a life of crime.
“I remember him telling me that if he couldn’t find a job or if he couldn’t go to college, he would go back to the life that he had before,” he said.
“The stigma of a criminal record should not make you permanently unemployable,” he said.
Marilyn Scales, 51, of the Bronx, said she spent two years in jail on drug charges in the 1990s and has been unable to find a full-time job since.
“I committed my crime, I did my time, I never went back to prison. But having to answer that [conviction] question gives them a bias,” said Scales, a member of the activist group Vocal-NY.
Under the bill, known as the “Fair Chance Act,” employers would only be able to retract a job offer if they discovered a conviction related to the job or that posed an undue risk to their business. Jobs that require background checks would be unaffected by the changes.