New York Law Permits "Sealing" of Criminal Records From Potential Employers

Having a criminal record can adversely affect your ability to find a job. Here in New York, state law has tried to make it easier for individuals who have paid their debt to society seek gainful employment by prohibiting employment discrimination based solely on a criminal record. As we discussed in a previous post, New York City has gone a step further and restricted employers from inquiring about a person's prior criminal convictions during the hiring process.

State Allows Individuals to Seal Up to Two Convictions

What if the record of your criminal conviction has been sealed? That is now possible thanks to the most recent New York State budget, which contains an amendment to the state's Criminal Procedure Law. This amendment allows a person to ask a judge to seal up to two convictions for certain offenses. While sealing does not erase all record of the conviction, it will prevent an employer from learning about it or using it against a person when making an employment decision.

The new amendment, codified as Section 160.59 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law, specifically provides that a person can ask to seal “up to two eligible offenses but not more than one felony offense.” At least 10 years must have elapsed since the “imposition of sentence on the defendant's latest conviction” or the applicant’s “release from incarceration” and probation. The sealing of a conviction is not automatic. A judge must weigh a number of factors, including the “circumstances and seriousness of the offense,” the applicant's “character” and “rehabilitation” since committing the crimes, and any evidence regarding the “impact of sealing the defendant's record on public safety.”

Once again, sealing a record does not erase it. That would be known as “expungement,” a process that does not currently exist under New York law. Sealing a record simply means it is not readily accessible to the public, including a potential employer conducting a criminal background check. Indeed, under the new law, it is considered illegal employment discrimination for an employer to inquire or rely upon the information in a sealed criminal record when making an employment decision. More importantly, if asked about a criminal record you no longer have to legally disclose a conviction that has been sealed by court order.

Have You Been a Victim of Employment Discrimination? We Can Help

It is important to note that not all convictions can be sealed. Under Section 160.59, a judge must reject any application to seal a conviction for a sex crime or violent felony. Once again, it is at the discretion of the court whether or not to seal other eligible criminal convictions.

If you have faced employment discrimination due to your prior criminal record, sealed or not, you may have options for legal recourse. A qualified New York employment attorney can review your situation and apprise you of your rights under federal, state, and city laws. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at (800) 496-3076 to schedule a consultation with our office today.


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