Guide to New York Background Checks

Danielle Hubein
February 24, 2023
12 min read

New York state employers can conduct pre-employment background checks to verify what a candidate provided on their application or resume. Screenings may also include a New York criminal background check, license verification, motor vehicles records, and more.

In New York, employers can choose to run a background check in NY on their own or work with a qualified background check provider, also called a consumer reporting agency (CRA). This guide to New York state background employment checks covers what you need to know about the most common types of screenings and what federal, state, and local laws may apply.

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What is a New York background check?

A New York state employment background check may be used by employers as part of their hiring process. Conducting background screenings on candidates or volunteers before bringing them on board typically involves collecting and reviewing information, such as  criminal records, employment and education verification, driving history, drug screenings, and more. The information discovered in a background check can help provide important insights to make informed hiring decisions about job candidates or bringing on volunteers.

How long does a background check take in New York?

While many New York state pre-employment checks may be completed within a day, turnaround times can vary depending on the type of screening and how the information has been stored.

In New York, the court system is complex. Not only does New York City have supreme civil courts, supreme criminal courts, civil courts, and criminal courts, but there is also a large court network that encompasses county, district, city, town, and village courts across the state.

Many of these courts do not have digitized records, which can make performing a  background check a bit more challenging and time consuming. However, some records are available online with the New York State Office of Court Administration which has searchable case databases for Civil Supreme Court Cases, select New York Courts and many local civil courts.

Partnering with a trusted CRA, like Checkr, can help New York employers navigate the New York court system and conduct other types of background checks more easily. With access to many types of databases and public records and relationships with courthouses across the country, a CRA can help shorten turnaround times for many types of New York background checks, provide comprehensive reporting, and streamline the process.

How far back does a New York background check go?

Per New York state law, CRAs cannot report or keep in their files any conviction records, judgments, and paid tax liens more than 7 years old, bankruptcies more than 14 years old, judgments that were paid within the last 5 years, or arrests that did not lead to a conviction (except for pending cases). These restrictions do not apply if the job in question has an annual salary more than $25,000.

While these rules apply at a state level there are jurisdictions with more stringent requirements at the state, city and county-specific level that restrict how and when employers may use information gathered in the hiring process. (See “New York background check laws” and “County resources,” below.)

New York background check laws

In New York state, there are several statewide laws that apply to background checks as well as local fair hiring and Ban the Box laws that may apply to an employer or a candidate, depending on their location.

Ban the Box

Summary: In New York, there is a statewide Ban the Box law that applies to public sector employers, agencies, and licensing authorities for the state of New York, as well as employers with 10 or more employees. Under this law, employers who learn about a candidate’s criminal history must individually assess the candidate and the type of conviction in light of the job. See law.

New York Human Rights Law § 296.16

Summary: Under this New York background check law, both public and private employers cannot ask a candidate to disclose information or deny employment on certain kinds of arrests. These include any arrests that were

  • Dismissed under Criminal Procedure Law §160.50
  • Resulted in Youthful Offender Adjudication pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law §720.35
  • Resulted in a conviction for a violation, which was sealed pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law §160.55
  • Ended up in a conviction that was sealed pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law §160.58

However, if inquiring into arrest records is required or permitted by New York State or federal law, there may be exceptions. See law.

New York General Business Code § 380-J

Summary: This New York background check law applies to CRAs, and prohibits them from reporting or maintaining certain information on file about a candidate, including:

  • Arrests or criminal charges unless there are pending charges or was a criminal conviction
  • Anything related to someone’s race, religion, color, ancestry, or ethnic origin
  • Bankruptcies older than 14 years old (however, federal law actually limits Chapter 11 bankruptcy information to 10 years)
  • Judgments, paid tax liens, confinement in a mental health facility, incidents relating to drug or alcohol addictions, or any other adverse information that is more than 7 years old, or judgments whose governing statute of limitations has expired, if it is more than 7 years

However, if the job in question pays $25,000 or more annually, the restrictions on bankruptcies, judgments, satisfied judgments, tax liens, convictions, drug or alcohol addiction incidents, confinement, and adverse information more than 7 years old do not apply. See law.

New York Corrections Law § 752

Summary: This New York state law prohibits an employer from unfairly discriminating against a candidate that has been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses. However, this law may not apply if the criminal offense(s) is directly connected to the job in question or if hiring the candidate would create unreasonable risk to the employer’s property or to the safety, or welfare of individuals or the general public. See law.

New York Corrections Law § 753

Summary: Under this New York state law, if an employer discovers information about a candidate’s criminal history during the hiring process, they are required to conduct an individualized assessment before making their final hiring decision. The assessment is based numerous factors, including:

  • New York state’s public policy that encourages employing people with criminal backgrounds
  • The specific responsibilities involved in the role
  • Whether the offense impacts the applicant’s ability to perform the job duties
  • How much time has passed since the criminal offense(s) occurred
  • Age of the candidate when the criminal offense was committed
  • Seriousness of the offense
  • Evidence of any rehabilitation and good conduct since the offense
  • Employer’s interest in protecting property and the safety and welfare of individuals or the general public
  • If the candidate has a certificate of relief from disabilities or of good conduct

After conducting the individualized assessment, if the New York employer still decides against hiring based on the candidate’s criminal history, the candidate can request a written explanation under NY Corrections Law § 754 (see below). See law.

New York Corrections Law § 754

Summary: Under this New York background check law, in New York, if someone with one or more criminal convictions is denied employment or licensure, they have the right to request a statement in writing explaining the reasons they were denied. Once a request is made, the employer or licensing agency is required to provide a written statement within 30 days. See law.

New York City Fair Chance Act

Summary: In New York City, under the New York City Fair Chance Act, employers cannot conduct a criminal background check until a candidate has been offered a conditional employment offer. The law applies to employers with at least 4 employees, including owners, if at least one employee works in New York City. However, there are some exceptions for state and federal jobs that are prohibited by law from hiring those with criminal records. See law.

While some employers may choose to hold off on conducting all background checks, including non-criminal screenings, the New York City Human Rights Local Law 4, which became law on July 29, 2021, advises against this practice. Instead, it recommends that employers move forward with other background checks, such as employment and education verification, first.

A trusted CRA, like Checkr, can help New York City employers easily coordinate a two-step screening process to help you comply with local laws.

New York City Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act

Summary: Under New York City Administrative Code Title 8, Ch. 1, § 8-107.24, New York City employers with more than 4 employees, including owners, are generally not allowed from checking a candidate’s credit or inquiring about credit history as part of the hiring process.

Employees do not need to all work in New York City or in the same location for the rule to apply. However, credit information may be considered in hiring decisions for certain types of jobs, including law enforcement and executive positions that have access to key information such as trade secrets, data security, or company finances. See law.

New York Labor Law § 194-A (Salary History)

Summary: New York employers cannot inquire of a candidate directly or their former employer about the candidate’s salary history. They also may not use that information to determine compensation for a new role.

However, employers are allowed to speak to candidates about their expectation for salary, benefits, and other compensation for the position in consideration. If the job applicant discloses their salary history during the hiring process voluntarily, the employer may use that information to increase the salary for the role. See law.

New York City and New York State Department of Labor Guidance on Marijuana Use

Summary: Under New York Labor Law section 201-D (NYLL), and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), an employer may not discriminate against individuals who legally use marijuana. The law prohibits employers from refusing to hire an individual because of their use of legal marijuana in New York state. While pre-employment drug testing was already restricted in New York City, in New York state, candidates can only be tested for marijuana under two conditions:

  • State or federal law mandates cannabis testing for the position. This may include a public safety job or driving role that is regulated by the Department of Transportation.
  • Failure to test for cannabis would cause an employer to lose federal funding or a contract or would otherwise violate federal regulations.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

When conducting employment background checks using a CRA, New York employers need to remain in compliance with not only state and local laws, but also federal FCRA requirements. These include the proper disclosure of intent to conduct a background check, obtaining written consent from the candidate, and following the adverse action process if you decide not to hire a candidate based on information revealed in a background check.

With the complex web of laws in New York state, when in doubt, employers may consider following the strictest guidelines to avoid potential liability.

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County resources

Bronx County

Bronx County is coextensive with the Bronx, a NYC borough and is home to more than 1.4 million people. The City is easily accessible by public transportation or car. The county is the third most densely populated in the US but also has many parks, waterfront areas, the New York Botanical Gardens, and the Bronx Zoo. The Bronx has a rich cultural history and is known as one of the birthplaces of hip hop. The New York Yankees call the county home and there are many arts and cultural attractions. There are several colleges and universities in Bronx County, including Fordham University and three campuses of the City University of New York.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employers in Bronx County.

Erie County

Erie County has nearly one million residents and is located along the shore of Lake Erie in western New York state. Nearly one-third of the county’s population resides in Buffalo, which is also the county seat. The Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres are based in Erie County. The county includes numerous conservation parks, waterfront parks, and forest management areas. Industries include industrial, light manufacturing, high technology, and service companies.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to Buffalo employers and city vendors with at least 15 employees.

Kings County

Kings County is coextensive with the New York City borough of Brooklyn. With more than 2.6 million residents, Kings County is the most populous county in the state and the second most densely populated in the US. It is just across the East River from Manhattan and easily accessible to the City by ferry, subway, and car. Brooklyn is home to world-renowned cultural venues, the New York Nets, Prospect Park, and Coney Island. Once a manufacturing hub, Brooklyn is now full of small businesses, high tech start-ups, and construction and services are the fastest growing industries.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employees in Kings County.

Monroe County

Monroe County is located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, part of the Rochester metropolitan area. Several key corporations are located in Monroe County, including Eastman Kodak, Paycheck, and Pictometry International. Key industries include photographic processing and imaging, STEM fields, and healthcare. There are many colleges and universities along with state and town parks for outdoor recreation. The Finger Lakes region, which sits on the border of Ontario Lake is a popular tourist area.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employers in Rochester.

Nassau County

Nassau County has a population of nearly 1.4 million residents and is the most densely populated county in New York state. Located on western Long Island, the county borders the NYC borough of Queens and Suffolk County. It is one of the most affluent counties in the US, with easy access into Manhattan by train or car. There are several colleges and universities in the county. Popular tourist destinations include Long Beach, Jones State Beach Park and Garden City along with activities like shopping, hiking, biking, and golf.

Public Information & Records

New York County

New York County is coextensive with Manhattan, the most populous borough of New York City, and sometimes known as “the City.” Home to about 1.7 million people, Manhattan is considered to be the cultural, finance, media, and entertainment capital of the world. It is also home to the United Nations and The New York Stock Exchange. Tourism is a major industry, with millions of visitors coming to the City from all over the globe. Many esteemed private schools and universities are in Manhattan, including Columbia University, Cooper Union, and New York University.

Public Information & Records

  • Ban the Box laws apply to New York City employers with at least 4 employees, including at least one working in New York City.

Queens County

Queens County is made up of the Queens borough of New York City and is home to about 2.3 million residents. Queens County has the second largest economy in NYC, after Manhattan, with a diverse range of industries, including trade, transportation, utilities, healthcare, and film and television production. It is also home to two of the largest airports in the world, JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Many large corporations are headquartered in the county, including Bulova, Steinway & Sons, and JetBlue Airways. The New York Mets also call Queens County home.

Public Information & Records

  • Ban the Box laws apply to New York City employers with at least 4 employees.

Richmond County

Richmond County is located in New York City harbor and is made up entirely of the borough of Staten Island and is home to nearly half a million people. Richmond County has a large amount of wildlife and federal, state, and local parks and wooded areas. Residents can commute to New York City using the Staten Island Ferry or by highway over the Verrazano Bridge. The county has an arts district, museums, a botanical garden, a zoo, and Historic Richmond Town, a living history village and museum complex.

Public Information & Records

  • Ban the Box laws apply to New York City employers with at least 4 employees.

Suffolk County

Suffolk County has more than 1.5 million residents and is located in eastern New York. Most of the county is in Long Island, a densely populated stretch of land with beaches on the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean. It is considered part of the New York City metropolitan area. With beaches, nationally-protected areas, wineries, and many outdoor activities, the county attracts tourists year round. Suffolk County is home to several colleges and universities along with major scientific facilities.

Public Information & Records

  • Ban the Box laws apply to Suffolk County employers with at least 15 employees.

Westchester County

Located just north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, Westchester County has about one million residents. The county has many seasonal events, cultural attractions, and outdoor recreations. NYC is easily accessible by car or public transportation, while several  large corporations have their headquarters here, including IBM, PepsiCo, Mastercard, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employers in Westchester County and private employers with at least 4 employees. A Ban the Box law also applies to city employers in Yonkers.

Additional Ban the Box laws

The following New York jurisdictions also have Ban the Box laws:

  • Albany County: A Ban the Box law applies to county employers.
  • Dutchess County: A Ban the Box law applies to county employers.
  • Orange County: A Ban the Box law applies to city employers in Newburgh.
  • Onondaga County: A Ban the Box law applies to city employers, licensing authorities, and contractors in the city of Syracuse.
  • Tompkins County: Ban the Box laws apply to public sector employers in Tompkins County and Ithaca.
  • Ulster County: Ban the Box laws apply to public sector employers in Ulster County, Kingston, Woodstock.

Get a New York background check with Checkr

A qualified CRA, like Checkr, can help New York employers streamline the pre-employment background check process. Partnering with a trusted background check provider can also help provide quicker turnaround times and more accurate background check reports. Plus, Checkr can help employers easily navigate legal compliance at the federal, state, and local level.

With Checkr, you will have access to many screening options – including criminal background checks, credit history, and motor vehicle records. Plus, when you work with Checkr, you will get access to our easy-to-use online platform with built-in, automated workflows, and our FCRA-certified support team is here to help you every step of the way. Get started with a New York background check.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Compliance Manager, Danielle analyzes the ever-changing laws and regulations affecting background screening to ensure that Checkr and its customers stay compliant. She also writes content to educate employers about background checks, screening best practices, and fair hiring laws. 

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