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Global Retailer Fined for NYC Ban the Box & State Human Rights Law Violations

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On June 19, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a $120,000 settlement with a global shoe and accessories retailer for noncompliance with New York City’s Fair Chance Act (FCA) in addition to the state’s laws protecting individuals from criminal record discrimination. As noted in the press release, this marks the fifth “major” settlement with retailers over fair chance hiring requirements.
 
The investigation uncovered that the company’s job applications contained impermissible criminal history questions and they also failed to implement consistent procedures for evaluating criminal records on applicants’ background checks when determining eligibility for employment. In addition to the monetary fine, the company agreed to create new policies and implement training to require use of individual assessments in its stores throughout New York state. The company must report these updates to the Attorney General.

What the NYC Fair Chance Act Covers 

The NYC Fair Chance Act is arguably one of the nation’s most extensive fair chance laws that, among other items, prohibits the criminal history question on applications, restricts when an employer may conduct a background check and outlines a detailed “fair chance process” (including a required individualized assessment) that employers must follow when making an adverse decision based on information on an applicant’s background check. Employers can find more information about the FCA, including FAQs and the required Fair Chance Notice, by visiting the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

Be Aware of Human Rights Laws

In addition to the FCA, employers across New York state must be cognizant of the state’s human rights law which requires employers to consider several factors – such as the duties and responsibilities of the position, time elapsed since the criminal conviction and the seriousness of the offense – before making an adverse employment decision based on criminal record information. Ultimately this requires an individualized assessment for each candidate that has a criminal past before a final hiring decision can be made.

Stay Compliant

This is yet another cautionary example of the price employers could pay for noncompliance with applicable ban the box laws. Employers hiring in multiple jurisdictions should be especially mindful of these laws and consult with qualified legal counsel to review application documents and hiring processes. Want more information about jurisdictions impacted by ban the box and fair chance laws? Download Asurint’s “Ban the Box and Fair Chance Laws” whitepaper.