Legislators are set to introduce a revised version of the Clean Slate Act, which would enable law enforcement, tribunals, and the Department of Education to access an individual’s sealed criminal records.
Senate Bill S211 in New York seeks to provide automatic sealing of certain convictions after a specific period has passed from the imposition of sentence, release from parole or probation, and if the defendant does not have a current charge pending. If passed, this legislation would be a part of New York’s “Clean Slate” initiative, which aims to help people with criminal records move on from their past mistakes and re-enter society.
The New York courts have seen two lawsuits involving a hospitality business. The first suit concerned how the company did not hire a person due to the individual’s criminal record. The second took place when the same individual challenged them for listing a job advertisement that barred people with convictions. Though the courts dismissed the first suit, the second case remains undecided.
Employers may ask applicants about unsealed misdemeanor or felony convictions. However, they cannot inquire about arrests that did not result in convictions. Should an employer refuse to hire an applicant based on prior convictions, they must ensure they made this decision based on the conviction’s relevance to the applied job.
Unfortunately, even with these protections, many ex-offenders have difficulty obtaining jobs. This struggle that ex-offenders often face harms not just them but the economy as well. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran a survey to determine the significant impact of losing these potential workers. According to the study, the economy loses roughly $78 to $87 billion in Gross Domestic Product because the workforce regularly excludes formerly incarcerated individuals.
Because of these issues, many businesses, public groups, community advocates, and labor unions have started working on a Clean Slate NY. This collaboration is a campaign to pass a bill that would automatically seal the records of eligible ex-offenders. Last year, the state Senate passed a Clean Slate Bill. However, it did not make it through the Assembly due to legislators expressing concerns about the law’s transparency. They also voiced worries about its effects on public safety.
Some lawmakers have worked to increase the bill’s chances of passing by appealing to moderates. As a result, they made changes allowing the state’s Education Department, judges, and law enforcement to see people’s sealed records. They may access these records for investigations, criminal sentencing, and licenses for sensitive positions. Unfortunately, some lawmakers remain unsatisfied, leaving the bill’s chances uncertain in the current legislative session.
If the revisions to the Clean Slate Act pass, it will eliminate several barriers to employment for ex-offenders. This change would also improve prospects for many businesses, addressing the labor shortages that many still face today. As a result, it will be crucial for employers to update their policies in light of the legislation’s altered regulations. To help ensure compliance with the new law, employers should partner with a background-checking company they can trust. The right provider will report accurate and up-to-date information.