Legislator Sam I. Fein speaks Monday about the Ban the Box law he introduced.
ALBANY (Feb. 13, 2017) – A groundbreaking law passed Monday by the Albany County Legislature will ensure that people who apply for Albany County jobs are judged by their qualifications, not prior indiscretions.
Led by its Democratic Majority, the Legislature voted 32-3 to adopt the Albany County Fair Chance Act, or ‘Ban the Box’ bill. Introduced by Legislator Samuel I. Fein of Albany’s South End, the law prohibits county officials from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after the county makes them a conditional offer of employment.
The law is known as Ban the Box because it strikes the conviction history questions on the county’s employment application (see picture below). Legislators said removing the boxes and delaying a criminal record check until after an offer is made will give all job seekers a fair shot at obtaining work.
“Too many people are left out of the job market because they are judged by a mistake made earlier in their lives,” Fein said. “This legislation demonstrates that Albany County is a leader in ensuring that all people are treated fairly.”
The law does not stop Albany County from undertaking required background checks for jobs or reviewing a person’s criminal record after a job offer is made. The county may rescind a job offer, but the applicant would have an opportunity to appeal the decision.
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo recognized the Legislature for adopting Ban the Box. “I applaud Albany County for adopting this job-hiring policy,” Cuomo said on Twitter.
Twenty-two Democrats – a majority of the Legislature – co-sponsored the measure, including Chairman Sean Ward of Green Island (District 16), Majority Leader Frank Commisso of Albany (District 11) and members of the Majority Minority District Caucus. Legislators said Monday that banning the box would have a direct and positive impact. The issue is critical for African-Americans, who are incarcerated at higher rates, Legislator Norma Chapman of Albany (District 4) has said.
Deputy Majority Leader Lucille McKnight of Albany (District 1) said the law breaks new ground in the Capital Region. While a growing number of municipalities and private companies do not allow questions about a person’s criminal past during the hiring process to protect against potential discrimination, Albany County is the first county in the Capital Region to Ban the Box, McKnight said.
Legislators Wanda Willingham, Norma Chapman and Samuel I. Fein.
The law received the support of civil rights defenders across Albany County. Fein noted that it was passed during African-American History Month. “Our goal is to protect the people we serve and, at the same time, implement robust, fair-chance employment practices,” said the Democrat from District 6.
Banning the box will expand job opportunities for those who need them, Legislator Wanda Willingham of Albany (District 3) said. “Many people who have been previously incarcerated are working to make a better life for themselves and we need to give them that second chance,” Willingham said.
For more information, call Fein at (518) 362-8380, or Dennis Yusko, communications director for the Albany County Legislature, at (518) 447-5527.