Can NYC Employers Perform Background Checks?

In many cases, people are searching for a new position to grow and improve themselves. Of course, finding a new job can be much more challenging for some applicants compared to others. This can be more than just not having the necessary skills or experience, but rather, factors that have no bearing on someone’s ability to perform a job. Some job applicants may be concerned about being rejected from a position due to what turns up during a background check. However, you may also wonder if background checks are even legal.

Everyone wants to be judged fairly when applying for a job and not have past mistakes define them. While employers want to make the best hiring decisions, certain types of background checks can often be discriminatory and keep qualified applicants out of a job.

Learn more about the legality of background checks in New York City.

What Does a Background Check Consist Of?

Not all background checks are the same. In some cases, employers may want to ensure the information you’ve submitted is correct. However, some background checks can reveal information not included in an application. Common background checks that employers may require include:

  • Identity Checks
  • Employment and Education Checks
  • Credit Checks
  • Criminal Record Checks

Certain positions may also require specific types of background checks relevant to the position.

Are Background Checks Legal in New York City?

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers need your written permission before conducting a background check. They must also tell you if they intend on using the information this uncovers when making employment decisions. You have the right to refuse a background check, although you may not get the job.

Employees in New York City have more protections when it comes to employment background checks. In New York City, employment history, education, and reference check are permitted during the interview process.

However, it’s illegal for most employers to inquire about your criminal history before you have a conditional offer of employment under the New York City Fair Chance Act. After this, employers may ask about your criminal history. If an employer does discover a criminal background, New York City requires them to follow a specific process before they decide not to hire the candidate. This means that having a criminal record is not always a valid reason to deny an applicant the position and could be a violation of the NYC Fair Chance Act. Not all positions are protected by this law, so it’s essential to understand what your rights are if you suspect they’ve been violated.

Additionally, credit checks related to employment are illegal in most cases. Employers typically cannot conduct a credit check on applicants or employees, even if you give your consent. Requesting that applicants and employees give permission for credit checks is a violation of New York City’s Credit Check Law.

Positions exempt from this law include:

  • Police and peace officers, not private security guards
  • Executive-level jobs with control over finances, computer security, or trade secrets

It’s also important to understand that NYC’s Credit Check Law does not prohibit credit checks related to housing.

Bantle & Levy: New York City Employment Discrimination Attorneys

At first glance, a background check might not seem discriminatory, but it can be. New York City provides many employees with protections regarding background checks, but if you don’t know your rights, you might not know when they’ve been violated. At Bantle & Levy, we fight to protect your rights and defend you from discrimination.

If you suspect that your employer has violated a federal, state, or local law, get in touch with us. We can help discuss your legal options

Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.

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