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Suffolk County, NY: Ban the Box & Hairstyle, Religious Garment Discrimination- What You Need to Know

“Ban the Box”

Following the trend of many other state and local governments Suffolk County enacted “ban the box” legislation, which became effective on August 25, 2020. The law prohibits Suffolk County and any other employer located within Suffolk County, with at least 15 employees, from inquiring into an applicant's prior criminal convictions during the application process.

The law makes it a discriminatory practice for a covered employer to make any inquiry regarding, or to require any person to disclose or reveal, any criminal conviction during the application process. The application process begins when an applicant inquires about the employment and ends when an employer accepts an employment application.

The law also restricts a covered employer from asking about or requiring disclosure of this information before a first interview. If no interview is conducted, the employer must inform the applicant whether a criminal background check will be conducted before employment begins.

The law allows employers to inquire about prior criminal convictions when:

  • The employer is hiring for licensed trades or professions (including interns and apprentices) and asks applicants the same questions asked by the trade or professional licensing body in accordance with state law;

  • The inquiries are authorized by another law; and

  • Certain convictions under, or violations of, state or federal law prohibit employment in that position.

The restrictions do not apply to:

  • Certain public employers;

  • Private and public schools; and

  • Private and public service providers of direct services specific to the care or supervision of children, young adults, senior citizens or the physically or mentally disabled.

Hairstyle and Religious Garment Discrimination

Effective on July 23, 2020, the Suffolk County Human Rights Act was amended to include prohibiting race and religious discrimination as components of “group identity” based on an individual's visible traits, such as:

  • Natural hair texture;

  • Protective hairstyles (including braids, locks and twists); and

  • The donning of religious garb or items

Prior to the change to the amendment, the law defined “group identity” as the “actual or perceived race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, or familial status of any individual, as well as the actual military status of any individual.”

Suffolk County employers should review their policies to ensure that they are inclusive of ethnic or cultural practices related to hair and hairstyle.

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