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NYC Council backs legislation forbidding use of criminal records in hiring

City Councilman Jumaane William, a co-sponsor of the

City Councilman Jumaane William, a co-sponsor of the Fair Chance Act, attends a rally on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. Photo Credit: Ivan Pereira

New Yorkers with criminal records looking for a second chance got some help from the city.

The City Council passed the Fair Chance Act Wednesday that forbids employers from asking potential candidates about their criminal history on applications. City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who co-sponsored the bill, said there are too many people who are unfairly discriminated for even the smallest infractions, despite legal protections, and it hurts owners and employees alike.

"Having a past conviction shouldn't mean you can't put food on the table," he said.

Under the bill's regulations, employers can only ask about a candidate's criminal history after they make a conditional job offer. The boss can still rescind the offer, but has to offer a full explanation and give the candidate a chance for "an interactive discussion, considering the employer's requirements and the applicant's evidence of good conduct."

Forty-five Council members voted yes on the bill, while five electeds -- councilmen Eric Ulrich, Steven Matteo, James Vacca, Vincent Ignizio and Andrew Cohen -- voted no. Councilman Vincent Gentile abstained.

Seventeen states have enacted similar laws and, in 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted a similar policy for city employees.

Criminal justice reform advocates praised the bill during a rally before the vote outside City Hall. Piper Kerman, the author of the memoir "Orange is the New Black," said she was fortunate to get a job despite her 13-month stint in a federal prison, and other former convicts should have the same opportunity.

"This amounts to a double punishment for the people who have paid their debt to society," Kerman said of the employment discrimination.

The measure is expected to be approved by the mayor.


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