Employment Laws Help Those With Criminal Records, But Still Not Enough

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On Thursday, WNYC provided a glimpse into the life of a young woman living in New York City who, despite the state’s laws regulating how companies are able to use background checks to screen job applicants, can’t find work because of her criminal record.

Melissa was arrested for prostitution when she was 19 years-old. She says that despite her arrest having little to no relevance to the jobs she’s applying to, she still gets rejected time and time again.

The articles says that, “When it comes to getting a job, New York leads the country in legal protections for people with criminal records. For nearly 40 years, Corrections Law Article 23-A has required that employers treat each job-seeker as an individual, instead of screening out all applicants that fit a certain profile.” But many employers still see a criminal record as a red flag. While they may not admit it upfront, a study done by the New York City Discrimination Study says it still plays a factor.

“Researchers recruited young men who were similar in everything from height to physical attractiveness and then sent them to 250, low-wage employers with fictitious resumes that were identical with one exception: one had a minor drug possession conviction.” The men who said they had conviction were only half as likely to get called back.

Despite the illegality of discriminating against those with criminal records, Melissa says she doesn’t want to make more trouble for herself by bringing potential employers to court. So, she’s kept her eyes peeled for background check free jobs and has managed to land a part-time position as a cashier at a local grocery store. For now she says the job will do, but in order to support her two year-old son and her brother she’ll need to find another one soon.

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