Though federal and New York law only have a limited number of categories in which to protect employees from workplace discrimination, there are other laws that require employers to look beyond single characteristics when making hiring decisions. Take, for example, a recent statement by the chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York Attorney General's office: "You CANNOT automatically disqualify individuals solely because they have a criminal background." While someone can be denied a job based on his or her criminal background, it cannot be the only reason why they are denied a position.
The office of the attorney general's message came after the store Bed Bath & Beyond made quite a splash at a job fair. A human resources representative for the store very definitively stated that it would not hire anyone with a felony record. The attorney general's office investigated the matter as an employment discrimination case, and it was recently settled.
The store will first need to pay restitution to individuals that were automatically disqualified because of their criminal records. It is unknown how many people on Long Island and New York City were affected by this discriminatory hiring policy or how much in restitution they will receive. With 62 stores across the state, many of which are on Long Island and in the city, it is likely that a considerable number of people were turned away because of their criminal records.
In addition to the restitution to applicants, the store will also pay restitution to organizations that work with former offenders to find work. Finally, the store will be training its employees on how best to comply with state employment discrimination laws.
Though this employment discrimination case has been solved by the attorney general's office, many applicants choose to file individual lawsuits against prospective employers with the help of an employment law attorney.
Source: WXXI News, Bed Bath & Beyond Settles Employment Discrimination Case," Michelle Faust, April 23, 2014