New York Legislators Pass Clean Slate Act

July 3, 2023

After an extended legislative session, New York’s legislators passed the Clean Slate Act. If signed into law by the state’s Governor, this bill will have a two-fold effect. Though the Governor may sign it into law soon, it would not take effect until one year after the signature.

When it does, it would automatically seal certain criminal records and bar employers from considering them when making employment decisions. Furthermore, the Act would amend the State Human Rights Law. The changes intend to encourage equal opportunities for gainful employment despite having criminal records.

Automatic Sealing of Records

The Clean Slate Act would allow the state to begin automatically sealing qualifying criminal records. However, eligibility requires waiting periods that depend on the severity of the conviction. The individuals with qualifying records must also avoid further convictions during this time. 

The waiting period for these records is the following:

  • Misdemeanors: Individuals released from prison or those who received a sentencing that did not involve incarceration can expect a wait time of three years.
  • Felonies: Felonies will seal eight years after an individual’s release from prison.

However, a last-minute deal has carved exceptions into the Act. For example, Class A-I felonies will not qualify for automatic sealing. This category includes severe offenses like murder, first-degree arson, and kidnapping. It also will not seal convictions requiring an individual to register as a sex offender.

Employers Barred From Considering Sealed Records

The Clean Slate Act would also amend the New York State Human Rights law. The change would prohibit employers from inquiring about or discriminating against an individual with automatically sealed records. However, the law also provides some exceptions to this rule. Conditions that allow access to the sealed information include the following:

  • When state or federal law requires the entity to perform a fingerprint-based background check;
  • When authorized to perform a fingerprint-based background check on an applicant who would work with a vulnerable population, including children or older adults;
  • As part of a criminal case or by law enforcement in the performance of an investigation; or
  • By licensing officers to process applications for a firearm license

Employers in New York should prepare for the Clean Slate Act to become law. One way to prepare is by reviewing their policies regarding criminal records in the hiring, promotion, and continual employment processes. The best way to get started is by partnering with a trustworthy background check company. The right partner will ensure compliance while delivering accurate and timely reports.

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