As Employer Express noted in our March newsletter, many jurisdictions around the country are enacting “ban-the-box” legislation. The City of Rochester, New York now joins the pack, passing an ordinance significantly restricting employer inquiries into an applicant’s prior criminal convictions. 

The Rochester “ban-the-box” ordinance goes into effect on November 18, 2014, and will apply to any employer located within the City of Rochester with 4 or more employees. Under the ordinance, Rochester employers may not ask an applicant to disclose previous criminal convictions on an employment application or at any point prior to or during an applicant’s first interview. After the initial interview, an employer may inquire into an applicant’s previous criminal convictions. The ordinance makes certain exceptions, allowing for criminal history inquiries on applications when such action is required by licensing authorities or under state or federal law, as well as for law enforcement positions. Employers should note that New York State law prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an applicant based upon a criminal offense unless the offense is directly related to the position sought by the applicant.

Navigating the myriad of state and local “ban-the-box” laws can be complex, rendering an employer’s ability to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history during the hiring process anything but clear. Reach out to Kelley Drye for counseling on your jurisdiction’s laws concerning inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history. We can review your employment application, revise hiring procedures and conduct a risk assessment to strengthen compliance with federal, state, and local laws.