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Employment Law

New York Law on Use of Criminal 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, Complaint forms are available on the website

Certificates of Relief  and Certificates of Good Conduct

After being released, it is necessary to restore your rights to participate in certain types of employment by obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct. These certificates function as evidence of rehabilitation that prospective employers must consider during the hiring process.

If you have been convicted of only misdemeanors and not more than one felony, or one felony only, you are eligible to receive a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, and if you have been convicted of more than one felony, you are eligible to receive a Certificate of Good Conduct.

To receive an application form for a Certificate of Relief or Good Conduct, send your request to:

New York State Division of Parole

1220 Washington Ave., Building 2

Albany, NY 12226-2050

If you have questions, call 518-473-9400

For further information, we suggest you refer to the Legal Action Center’s document: “Lowering Criminal Record Barriers: Certificates of Relief/Good Conduct and Record Sealing.”

 Obtaining your Rap Sheet

As a part of your employment search, it is in your best interest to obtain a copy of your criminal record (rap sheet). Your rap sheet contains information about arrests, arrest charges, convictions, and sentences. It is necessary to obtain this document in order to present your conviction record accurately to a potential employer. It is also important to obtain this document in order to correct inaccuracies that may appear on your record.

In New York State, you can obtain your rap sheet by filing a “Request for Record Review” with the Division of Criminal Justice Services:

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

Records Review Unit

4 Tower Place

Albany, NY 12203


For a more comprehensive guide to cleaning up your rap sheet, we suggest you refer to the Legal Action Center’s document: “Your New York State Rap Sheet: A Guide to Getting, Understanding, and Correcting Your Criminal Record

Helpful resourses for formerly incarcerated jobseekers

Websites for Job Listings 

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