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New York State Background Check Laws

In September 2015, the New York governor declared that New York would “adopt ‘fair chance hiring’ for New York State agencies,” meaning that job applicants for positions with state agencies would not be required to disclose information about prior convictions until they have been interviewed and the agency has expressed an interest in hiring the candidate.

This fair-chance hiring policy was originally part of a package of recommendations made by the Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration. Which was created by the governor in 2014. New York law precludes employers from inquiring about or taking adverse action in response to charges or arrests that didn’t result in convictions.

Furthermore, New York law prohibits employers or licensing agencies from taking adverse action based on conviction history unless past criminal offenses are directly related to the specific job or license being sought. The EEOC criteria are applied in an individualized assessment of an individual’s background.

Albany County

The Albany County Fair Chance Act was approved on February 13, 2017 by The Albany County Legislature. Under the Act, county employers are prohibited from inquiring into a job applicant’s conviction record until after a conditional offer of employment is extended.  

The employer must also make a good faith determination that a background check is required for the position. Furthermore, the county may not inquire about an applicant’s arrest history at any time during the application process. The applicant is entitled to a copy of their background check, and they have the right to appeal any adverse determination.


In June 2013, Buffalo’s Common Council enacted a ban-the-box law that applies to public employers and private employers that have 15 or more employees. It also applies to contractors that do business with the city.

Questions about criminal history are excluded from the initial job application. Criminal history can only be considered after the initial interview.

Dutchess County

In February 2016, the Dutchess County Executive declared that all questions regarding criminal convictions, firings from previous jobs, and dishonorable military discharges would be removed from all county recruitment bulletins, employment applications, and exams. This ban-the-box policy was part of a broader initiative to advance diversity in the pool of applicants for county jobs.


The City of Ithaca announced in December 2015 that it would implement a ban-the-box policy for public employers. As Ithaca’s Director of Human Resources stated, “…. community cannot afford to pass up talented, capable people in search of a second chance. We are excited to model, through this initiative, what the city believes and practices.”


The Kingston City Council passed a resolution to remove questions related to criminal convictions and charges from City employment applications in September 2015. City employers can continue to ask questions regarding criminal records during job interviews and conduct background checks on applicants.

New York City

In June 2015, New York City Council passed its Fair Chance Act, a ban-the-box law that applies to all employers, public and private, with four or more employees.

Criminal history inquiries are prohibited until after a conditional job offer. The Act also requires that an individualized assessment of a candidate’s criminal history be conducted, using the EEOC criteria. Candidates can only be denied employment if their conviction history is directly related to the nature of the job, and their employment would pose an unreasonable risk.

Prior to denial of employment, the applicant will be provided with a copy of their background report, along with an identification of the specific information that is influencing the adverse decision.

The job is then held open for three days in order to allow the candidate to provide a response and to allow the employer to evaluate the applicant’s rehabilitation efforts.


In May 2014, Rochester’s City Council passed an ordinance for fair employment screening. This ban-the-box law covers all city employers, both public and private, that have four or more employees. Background checks are prohibited until after an initial interview or a conditional offer of employment.  


In December 2014 the Syracuse City Council passed a ban-the-box ordinance that applies to city employment, city contractors, and city licensure applications. Criminal history inquiries and background checks are prohibited until after a conditional job offer.

EEOC criteria is used to conduct an individualized assessment of a candidate’s criminal history. Conditional job offers may be withdrawn if this assessment reveals a direct relationship between a prior conviction and the duties of the job, or if there is unreasonable risk.

Applicants will be provided with a copy of their background report, with disqualifying information highlighted. The applicant may appeal before final adverse action.

Tompkins County

In July 2016, the Tompkins County Legislature adopted a resolution in support of the commissioner of personnel in the implementation of procedures removing criminal conviction questions from the county’s employment application.

Background checks and inquiries are delayed until later in the hiring process. Assessment of a candidate’s convictions to determine their relevance to the job are conducted by the county personnel department.

Ulster County

In December 2014, the Ulster County Executive signed an executive order removing the conviction history question from the county’s job application. Convictions will only be considered after the first interview.

Westchester County

In April 2018, the Westchester County Executive signed an executive order prohibiting county employers from asking questions about conviction history during the initial application process.

In December 2018, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed a law that prohibited public and private employers (except law enforcement agencies) from inquiring about arrest or conviction history on an initial job application.

Before taking an adverse employment action based on an applicant’s criminal record, county employers must analyze the record and the factors listed in Article 23-A of New York State Correction Law. Applicants may request a written statement of the reasons for the denial, pursuant to Article 23-A, Section 754.


In November 2014, the Woodstock Town Board voted to remove questions regarding criminal history from town employment applications.   


In November 2014, in a cooperative effort between Community Voices Heard and the Yonkers Mayor’s office the box asking an applicant to disclose his or her criminal history was removed from city employment applications.

Cities Include: New York City, Duffalo, Rochester, Yonkers, Syracuse, Albany, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, Schenectady, Utica and more.

Note: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel for advice related to your state/locality.