By Abigail Woodworth
Last Thursday, The Legal Action Center, Community Service Society of New York and NELA/NY (the New York affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association) jointly filed an amicus brief with the New York State Court of Appeals in the case of Griffin v. Sirva, Inc. et al. Several organizations signed on to the brief, including the Bronx Defenders, the Center for Community Alternatives, JustLeadershipUSA, The Legal Aid Society, The Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Legal Services NYC, MFY Legal Services, Inc., and Youth Represent.
A copy of the brief can be found here.
This case addresses the critical question of whether third parties can be held liable when they impose discriminatory criminal record hiring criteria on direct employers. New York law expressly prohibits flat bans on employing persons with convictions, requiring instead an individualized assessment before an employment decision is made. Yet in Griffin, a third party (Allied Van Lines, Inc. (Allied), the national moving company) required, via its contract with its local moving company agent (Astro Moving and Storage Co., Inc. (Astro)), that persons with certain convictions be automatically and permanently barred from their moving jobs, with the result that when the commercial background check company reported that the two Astro employees did not meet company (Sirva, Allied’s holding company) criminal record standards, Astro terminated both men.
Amici, all organizations committed to protecting the workplace rights of individuals with convictions, ask that the Court expressly confirm that the anti-discrimination protections under New York law apply to all decision-making parties in this and similar situations. Because new forms of employment relationships are now coming to the fore in today’s rapidly growing contingent workforce economy, clarifying this legal coverage is more essential than ever.
Statements from the Amici:
“The Court’s decision will impact millions of New Yorkers with convictions. Third parties should be held accountable when they require direct employers to screen out people with convictions or certain convictions from jobs. New York State’s anti-discrimination laws were enacted to shield persons with convictions from such blatant employment discrimination. Application of the law to third parties is more necessary than ever, as the economy increasingly relies on indirect and contingent employment relationships,” says Monica Welby, Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Action Center.
“Today’s changing economy has created new kinds of employment arrangements, with more emerging all the time,” says Judy Whiting, General Counsel at the Community Service Society of New York, “but regardless of the form they take, one thing remains constant: discrimination against workers with conviction histories is wrong, and New York State law forbids it. In clarifying this core concept, this Court will ensure that the millions of individuals across New York State with past criminal justice involvement are afforded the protection they need and deserve, and can fully participate in the state’s economy.”
Deborah H. Karpatkin, NELA/NY board member, says: “NELA/NY is proud to have collaborated with LAC, CSS, and Professor Sachin Pandya in urging vigorous enforcement of New York State’s anti-discrimination laws. An automatic employment ban on persons with conviction histories violates New York law, whether imposed by the direct employer or a third party. With more and more workers subject to workplace rules imposed by third parties from afar, there can be no doubt that New York’s anti-discrimination laws hold third parties liable if they impose discriminatory ‘no hire’ rules.” Furthermore, she adds, “those who impose ‘automatic ban’ policies are liable because they aid and abet discrimination.”