Why the NYC Fair Chance Act Matters to You

Understanding your rights under the New York City Fair Chance Act (FCA) is crucial, especially if you have faced or are currently facing termination due to an arrest or criminal conviction.

This article aims to provide clear and comprehensive information about the NYC Fair Chance Act and other relevant laws that protect workers in New York City.

Bottom Line:  You cannot be fired, demoted or denied a job opportunity based on your criminal history unless the crime relates directly to the job.

For example, a drunk driving conviction would disqualify someone as a bus driver due to the risk it would pose to the bus passengers. Likewise, a bank robbery conviction would disqualify someone for a job as a bank teller since the person stole money from a bank. 

Without a direct connection like that, a person’s criminal history cannot be used to justify a termination or withdrawal of a job offer.

Recent Case Example:   Joe Smith (fake name) worked as a salesman selling plumbing supplies in New York City.   Mr. Smith was fired after his employer found out he was convicted of insider trading.

That firing was a violation of the NYC Fair Chance Act because the crime of insider trading has no connection to his job selling plumbing supplies. The conviction does not create any risk to the company or the public.

What is the New York City Fair Chance Act?

The NYC Fair Chance Act is a law designed to protect individuals with arrest or conviction records from unfair discrimination in employment. The key provisions of this law include:

  • Prohibition on Pre-Employment Inquiries: Employers are prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
  • Individualized Assessment: Employers must conduct an individualized assessment to determine whether an applicant’s criminal history is relevant to the job position before making any adverse employment decisions.
  • Notice and Opportunity to Respond: If an employer intends to take action based on criminal history, they must provide the applicant with a written copy of the criminal history report and their assessment and a reasonable opportunity to respond.

Protections and Additional Details from the Fair Chance Act

The NYC Fair Chance Act provides several key protections for workers:

  1. Relevance to Job Performance
    • An employer cannot fire an employee solely based on an arrest or conviction unless it is directly related to the job duties. For instance, a conviction for insider trading does not relate to a sales position and should not result in termination.
  2. Nature of the Offense
    • The employer must consider the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that has elapsed since the offense, and the nature of the job held by the employee. This means a conviction for a minor offense that occurred many years ago should not affect your current employment status if it is unrelated to your job functions.
  3. Rehabilitation
    • Employers must take into account evidence of rehabilitation and good conduct. Positive changes in an individual’s life post-conviction should be considered in any employment decision.
  4. Notice and Due Process
    • Employees must be informed in writing if their criminal history is being considered in employment decisions. They must also be given a chance to provide context or correct any inaccuracies in their criminal record.

Additional Provisions Before and After Job Offer

  • Before a Job Offer:
    • Employers cannot mention criminal history in job ads.
    • Employers cannot include questions about criminal records in job applications.
    • Employers cannot run background checks until after a conditional offer.
  • After a Job Offer:
    • Employers can ask about criminal convictions.
    • Employers can require background check authorization.
    • Employers can exclude arrests not leading to convictions, sealed convictions, and most ACD cases.
  • Before Making a Final Decision:
    • Employers must provide a background check copy.
    • Employers must evaluate specific factors and share the evaluation.
    • Employers must hold the job open for at least three business days for the applicant’s response.

Updates from NYC Commission on Human Rights

Recent updates to the FCA include:

  1. Extension to Current Employees and Contractors: The FCA now applies not only to job applicants but also to existing employees and independent contractors.
  2. Pending Arrests: The law extends protections to pending arrests.
  3. Prohibition on Inquiry: Employers cannot ask about non-convictions, such as certain low-level cases, sealed cases, or cases with favorable outcomes.
  4. Two-Stage Background Check Process: Employers must first evaluate non-criminal information before considering criminal history.

Additional Protections for New York Workers

Beyond the Fair Chance Act, several other laws offer protection:

  • New York Human Rights Law: Prohibits discrimination in employment based on criminal convictions unless there is a direct relationship between the offense and the job or if employment would pose an unreasonable risk.
  • Article 23-A of the New York Correction Law: Requires employers to consider specific factors before making adverse employment decisions based on criminal history, such as the relevance of the conviction to the job, the age of the applicant at the time of the offense, and evidence of rehabilitation.

What to Do If You Face Discrimination

If you believe you have been unfairly terminated or discriminated against due to an arrest or conviction:

  • Document Everything: Keep records of all communications with your employer, including written notices and reasons provided for termination.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law to understand your rights and potential remedies.
  • File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or the New York State Division of Human Rights.


The NYC Fair Chance Act and related laws offer significant protections for workers with arrest or conviction records.

Employers are required to take a fair and individualized approach in evaluating criminal history and must not make adverse employment decisions based on irrelevant or outdated convictions. Understanding your rights can help you take action if you face unfair treatment in the workplace.

Call us if you have lost your job due to your criminal background.