New York, NY - April 22, 2014 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office has secured a settlement with Bed Bath & Beyond, a national retailer with 62 stores in New York, to ensure that applicants for employment are not automatically disqualified based on criminal convictions and without the individualized consideration that is required by New York State law. Bed Bath & Beyond operates over a thousand stores in total across the nation.
Under the settlement, the company agrees to take new steps that will ensure that the company complies with state laws which prohibit the automatic disqualification of job candidates with criminal convictions and that require that candidates with criminal records be given individualized consideration.
"My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all New Yorkers," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "The law in our state prohibits the automatic disqualification of job candidates with criminal backgrounds and this agreement puts employers on notice that slamming the door on job seekers based on past conduct without deciding whether that conduct is relevant to the current job is not only wrong – it’s unlawful.”
Under New York State law, employers must conduct an individualized evaluation of applicants’ criminal records, by considering a number of factors, including the nature and gravity of an applicant's criminal conviction and its bearing, if any, on any specific responsibilities of the job sought, the time that elapsed since the conviction, the age of the applicant at the time when the offense was committed; and evidence of rehabilitation. Attorney General Schneiderman’s office is committed to enforcing laws that guarantee all New Yorkers have an equal opportunity to seek lawful employment.
After a human resources manager for Bed Bath & Beyond disseminated information at a job fair stating that the company did not hire individuals with felony convictions, regardless of any evidence of rehabilitation, the Attorney General's Office conducted an investigation and determined that Bed Bath & Beyond had automatically disqualified job applicants with felony convictions, without conducting the individualized determination required by law.
Pursuant to the settlement and the requirements of state law, Bed Bath & Beyond will modify its policies to comport with state law requirements, conduct training of all of its employees on these new policies, preserve records of its hiring decisions and any complaints related to criminal history discrimination, and provide periodic reports to the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau to ensure compliance with the law.
Bed Bath & Beyond will pay a total of $125,000 in relief, of which $40,000 will be awarded as restitution to individuals who were unlawfully denied employment with the company, and $15,000 will be paid to each of the following organizations: the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Osborne Association, and the Doe Fund, all of which provide job training and placement services for individuals with criminal records.
Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “Given practices such as racial profiling, immigrant detention, and discriminatory laws that lead to a disproportionate number of people of color behind bars, it is important that we deal with the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. Barriers to re-entry for individuals with prior convictions are especially stark in the employment context. I thank the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau for working to address these barriers to ensure greater access to employment opportunities for all communities.”
Inimai Chettiar, Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said, “If we want people to contribute to our economy, we need to provide them with the necessary tools to do so. Research has conclusively proven that providing former felons with access to job opportunities helps reduce recidivism, lowers the crime rate, strengthens communities, and strengthens our economy. I applaud the Attorney General’s Office for making barriers to re-entry a core civil rights priority.”
The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to promoting access to equal employment opportunities and combating discrimination in New York State. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ag.ny.gov.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney Generals Ajay Saini and Sandra Pullman, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke and Executive Deputy of Social Justice Alvin Bragg.