New Yorkers with records and their advocates celebrated City Council’s passage of Intro 318, the Fair Chance Act. Introduced in April 2014 by Progressive Caucus Council Members Jumaane D. Williams, Corey Johnson, and Ritchie Torres, at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, this legislation is designed to help ensure that people with conviction histories have a fair chance at employment and are not unlawfully shut out of the job market. 

The Fair Chance Act prohibits all employers in New York City from asking about a job applicant’s conviction record until the end of the hiring process, when the employer has decided the candidate is the best qualified and is the person they want to hire. At that point, employers may inquire about the candidate’s criminal background. The new law will facilitate a fully informed hiring decision based on a candidate’s skill set and qualifications, and not merely based on an applicant’s unchangeable past. Nearly one in three adults in the United States has a criminal history that will show up in a routine background check.

Before the June 10th vote, leaders of the Fair Chance NYC coalition gathered with elected officials on the City Hall steps joined by more than 25 community, labor, and faith organizations includes VOCAL-NY, the National Employment Law Project, the Community Service Society, 32BJ SEIU, and Faith in New York, among others. Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, also spoke at the press conference about the importance of second chances. Full Release


“I am proud to work with a vibrant group of elected officials to pass the NYC Fair Chance Act. Once enacted, this law will ensure that all New Yorkers, including those with convictions for previous mistakes, will have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs that they qualify for. Though the legislation does not require employers to hire any particular applicant, it delays the background check, thus supplementing preexisting law that says employers cannot deny a job because of a record unless there is a direct relationship to the job. Not only does employment strengthen communities and lower recidivism, but employers will have access to a broader range of qualified candidates to consider. I am proud New York City will now join the ranks of more than 17 states and 100 cities to give all applicants a fair chance,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Deputy Leader and co-lead sponsor. 

“The Fair Chance Act will give all qualified applicants a fair chance to compete for jobs by deferring questions about criminal history until after a conditional job offer,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “More than five million New Yorkers with records will benefit from the chance to demonstrate their qualifications, and employers will be presented with a broader range of candidates from which to choose. Many employers report that it is people with criminal records who often work harder, are more willing to stay at a job for a longer period of time, and develop into valuable leaders.”

“All job applicants with the right qualifications and desire to work should be able to compete fairly for jobs and be considered for their skills, not past mistakes,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The Fair Chance Act ensures that employers are giving all applicants the same level playing field, and I applaud the City Council for passing this important legislation.”

“Too many New Yorkers are struggling to land a job due to their past transgressions. We must provide them a fair chance to rebuild and reclaim their ability to support themselves and their families. Banning the box will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to land a reliable job based on their qualifications, rather than being ruled out because of a mistake in their past,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. 

“I stand strongly behind job creation but when a portion of the population is excluded from employment opportunities we must re-evaluate. Having a past criminal history should not be an automatic disqualifier, ” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Deciding to make a positive change and seek legitimate employment should be recognized. We should be helping, not discouraging and that is exactly what this act will do. Employers will get a better sense of the candidate’s skills before making their decision and candidates with past convictions will have a fair chance at employment.”


CNN: Lawmakers fight for the rights of job-hunting ex-cons

CBS NY: City Council Approves Bill To Ban Private Employers From Asking Applicants About Crime

Huffington Post: New York City Council Passes ‘Ban The Box’ Bill Restricting Use Of Criminal Records In Hiring

Gotham Gazzette: Giving New Yorkers a Fair Chance at Employment

NY Observer: Orange Is the New Black’ Author Rallies for ‘Ban the Box’ Bill

The National Law Review: New York City Council Passes Ban-the-Box Legislation

AMNY: NYC Council backs legislation forbidding use of criminal records in hiring

NY Daily News: City bans employers from asking job applicants about criminal history

SI Advance: Council bill outlaws employers from asking job applicants for criminal history


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