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New York Law on Use of Criminal Records

The Law For Those With Prior Conviction Records

According to the New York State Department of Labor,   you must disclose any prior convictions, which are not sealed, to your employer or potential employer if you are asked to do so. This also applies to applications for licenses.

While employers and licensing agencies are permitted to inquire about convictions for criminal offenses, they may not deny employment unless there is a direct relationship between the conviction and the employment or license sought, or unless granting the employment or issuing the license would involve an unreasonable risk to property or the safety and welfare of others. See New York State Human Rights Law §296.15 and Article 23-A of the New York State Correction Law. In reaching this determination, the employer or licensing agency must consider all of the following factors:

  • New York’s public policy to encourage the employment and licensure of those with previous criminal convictions;
  • The specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the license or employment sought;
  • The bearing, if any, the criminal offense will have on the ability to perform the job duties;
  • The time elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense;
  • The age of the person at the time of the offense;
  • The seriousness of the offense;
  • Any information produced about the person’s rehabilitation and good conduct; and
  • The legitimate interest of the public agency or private employer in protecting property and the safety and welfare of others.

If you believe you have been discriminated against by an employer, you may file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. A complaint must be filed with the Division of Human Rights within one year of the alleged unlawful act.

The Division will investigate your complaint and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred. Where probable cause is found, the complaint will be forwarded to an administrative law judge to conduct a public hearing. Upon completion of the hearing, the administrative law judge will make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Human Rights. The Commissioner will issue a Final Order in the matter and, if discrimination is found, may order appropriate damages and other relief.

The Division can only accept complaints of conviction record discrimination against private employers. Those claiming discrimination by public employers or licensing agencies must bring an action directly in state court.

For more information or to make an appointment, contact the regional office nearest you or visit the Division of Human Rights website, www.dhr.ny.gov. Complaint forms are available on the website