Under New York State law, Article 23A, it is illegal for an employer to deny someone a job based on a conviction unless the employer can demonstrate it is job-related. The law says that in deciding whether or not a conviction is job-related, the employer must consider a number of factors, including evidence of rehabilitation (a Certificate of Good Conduct, for example). With sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, the burden of proof is on the employer to demonstrate that hiring you would be a risk to people or property, or that your conviction is directly related to the job for which you are applying.
In New York City, you are further protected by the Fair Chance Act. Read more about the Fair Chance Act in the NYC Connections 2020 Guide.
You can contact the Legal Action Center for help if you experience discrimination in your job search by calling 212.243.313. They can advise you on your rights and give help with how to proceed. Important information relating to employment discrimination can be found on their website at www.lac.org or you can write to them at 225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014 to request information by mail.
It is illegal for an employer to ask you whether or not you have a history of alcohol or substance use disorder. An employer can only ask if you are currently using illegal drugs. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you as someone who is recovering from alcohol or substance use disorder. If you have been refused employment and believe it was due to a history of alcohol or substance use disorder, or due to participation in a treatment program, contact the New York State Division of Human Rights at 888.392.3644 or the Legal Action Center at 212.243.1313. Federal confidentiality laws prohibit most treatment programs from revealing any information about your treatment without your consent. However, an employer can learn of past or current substance use by conducting a background check or due to a medical exam required as part of the hiring process for some jobs.
The law in New York City that prohibits questions about criminal records means that it is your decision to discuss your past in an interview. But, if you are offered a job, a background check may reveal your history. Be prepared for questions that may be asked on whether your conviction relates to the job position. Certificates can act as an official line of support and a clean rap sheet will benefit you as well. Make sure to maintain supportive and accurate paperwork. In addition, practice answering questions that may be brought up in order to feel confident discussing the ways you have changed. Be able to explain how you’ve confronted the problems that led to your time in prison. For example, “Problems that were affecting me five years ago led to a series of bad decisions. Since then, I have learned to understand the underlying causes of my circumstances and choices. After release, my family and friends, as well as my educational experience, helped to build my confidence. I am positive that my past will not interfere with my work or my ability to make good decisions.” When choosing references for your resume and job application, select individuals who can testify to your present-day character and speak about your specific skills. Keep a file of these letters that speak of the meaningful ways you have changed.