State LawsNew York

New York Background Checks

A guide to New York background checks

Conducting pre-employment background checks enables employers to gather key information about job candidates, such as criminal history, driving record, education, work experience, and more, that supports well-informed hiring decisions. However, New York State strictly regulates employment screenings, and employers conducting background checks must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Keep reading to learn more about New York background check processes and compliance.

Get A New York State Background Check Today

Get Started
GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.

Conducting background checks of job candidates helps employers protect their companies, their reputations, and their employees. Background screenings can reveal important information related to a candidate’s qualifications, including a candidate’s criminal record, driving record, or professional license status. Failing to follow laws guiding employment background screenings can expose employers to legal liability, so it’s essential to ensure your background check process is legally compliant. 

What Is A New York State Background Check?

Employers and other organizations often conduct background checks on job candidates or potential volunteers before bringing them on board. The specific background screenings depend on the organization, the job, and applicable laws. Some common background checks in New York are: 

Criminal records checks to search national, federal, state, and/or county records to see if a candidate has any misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Driving records check to review state motor vehicle records for information about a job applicant’s license status, moving violations, and more.

Employment verification to confirm a job applicant’s prior work experience and employment.

Education verification to verify schools attended, degrees earned, and dates of attendance.

Healthcare sanctions check to search for any penalties or disciplinary actions against healthcare professionals.

Drug screening to test for the presence of prescription and illicit drugs. New York State law prohibits most employers from conducting pre-employment cannabis tests except in certain cases.

New York City restricts when employers can conduct criminal records checks and motor vehicle records checks, effectively requiring background checks to be conducted in two phases. (See “New York Background Check Laws” for more details.) 

Certain positions or industries may require additional New York state background checks. For example, home care agencies, health homes, and subcontractors to these companies who work with vulnerable populations including seniors, children, and developmentally disabled people. Employers hiring for these organizations may be required to check the Staff Exclusion List (SEL), a statewide registry of people who have committed serious or repeated acts of abuse and neglect, or the Statewide Central Register database (SCR), a database of people reported to have abused or maltreated children. Employees of group child care programs must complete a comprehensive background check. This includes a state and national criminal records check, searches of state and national sex offender registries, and SCR and SEL checks.

How Far Back Do Employment Background Checks Go In New York?

In New York State, criminal background checks provided by consumer reporting agencies can only report criminal records that are less than seven years old, measured from the date of the conviction, release, or parole. Background screenings are also restricted from reporting bankruptcies over 10 years old or drug or alcohol addictions, judgments, paid tax liens, or any other adverse information that is more than seven years old. These limitations do not apply to jobs paying $25,000 or more annually. 

How Long Does a Background Check Take In New York?

Many New York state employment background checks can be completed within one day, but turnaround times also vary based on the scope and type of screening and the accessibility of the data.

Screenings may take longer if the information needed isn’t digitized or available online. The New York State Office of Court Administration maintains a searchable database of cases from certain local civil courts, Civil Supreme Court cases from all 62 counties, and selected New York State Courts. However, some court records checks may require contacting a specific court by mail or visiting in person. 

New York state background checks can require navigating a complex court system. New York City alone has supreme civil courts, supreme criminal courts, civil courts, and criminal courts. Outside New York City, there are supreme, county, district, city, town, and village courts—many of which don’t make online records available. Working with a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like GoodHire, can simplify this legal maze and speed your background check process.

When using GoodHire, checks of nationwide criminal databases, the nationwide sex offender registry, statewide criminal records, and county criminal records that show no records (or are “clear”) average just minutes or hours to complete. When screenings return records (or have “alerts”), GoodHire’s FCRA-certified quality assurance team manually reviews and cross-references the data to verify accuracy. Checks that return alerts still average less than a week for turnaround time.

On average, checks of global and domestic watch lists and motor vehicle records are completed instantly or within a few hours, regardless of the results. 

What Shows Up On A New York Criminal Record?

Employers may use a New York State employment background check to search for key information about a candidate, most commonly a criminal background. A federal criminal history check uncovers convictions that violate federal criminal law, including federal tax evasion, embezzlement, and mail fraud. A state criminal history check reveals any convictions for felonies and misdemeanors less than seven years old, and any pending criminal cases. 

In New York, consumer reporting agencies can’t report non-conviction records (except for pending cases) or convictions that are more than seven years old. Exceptions are made for jobs that pay more than $25,000 annually. 

State law also limits how New York employers can use criminal background checks, consumer credit checks, and drug screenings in making employment decisions. In addition, some counties and cities have local laws that are more stringent than New York State laws. (See “New York Background Check Laws” and “County Resources,” below, for details.)

Get A New York State Background Check Today

Get Started
GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.

New York Background Check Laws

There are several statewide background screening and/or ban-the-box laws affecting how background checks are used in New York:

NY Human Rights Law § 296.16

Public and private employers in New York State are forbidden rom asking candidates to disclose information about, or denying employment based on, any arrest that:

  • Was dismissed pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law §160.50
  • Resulted in a 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 §160.50 or CPL §160.55
  • Resulted in a conviction that was sealed pursuant to CPL §160.58

There are exceptions if inquiring into these records is specifically required or permitted by New York State or federal law. 

NY General Business Code § 380-j

CRAs are prohibited from reporting or maintaining in the file on the consumer:

  • Information about an arrest or criminal charge unless there has been a criminal conviction or charges are still pending
  • Information related to an individual’s race, religion, color, ancestry, or ethnic origin 
  • Bankruptcies more than 14 years old (note that federal law is stricter, limiting bankruptcy information to 10 years)
  • Drug or alcohol addictions, judgments, paid tax liens, confinement in a mental institution, or any other adverse information more than seven years old

An exception to these restrictions is made for jobs paying $25,000 or more annually.

Ny Corrections Law § 752

Unfair discrimination against candidates previously convicted of one ore more criminal offenses is prohibited. Exceptions include: 

  • If there is a direct relationship between one or more of the criminal offenses and the job being sought
  • If hiring the person would create an unreasonable risk to property or the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public

Article 23-A of NY Corrections Law § 753

Employers are required to conduct an individualized assessment before denying employment based on a candidate’s criminal record. The assessment must consider these eight factors:

  1. New York state’s public policy in favor of employing people with criminal histories
  2. The specific duties and responsibilities involved in the job
  3. Whether the criminal offense has any bearing on the candidate’s fitness for the job or ability to perform the required duties
  4. How much time has passed since the criminal offense
  5. How old the candidate was when the criminal offense occurred 
  6. The seriousness of the offense 
  7. Any evidence the candidate or others provide of rehabilitation and good conduct since the offense
  8. The employer’s legitimate interest in protecting property and the safety and welfare of specific individuals and the general public

Employers should also consider any certificate of relief from disabilities or of good conduct that the individual provides. If, after conducting this assessment, the employer denies employment based on criminal history, candidates who ask for a written statement explaining the reasons for denial must be provided one within 30 days of the request. (See §754 below.)

NY Corrections Law § 754

Anyone with one or more criminal convictions who is denied employment or licensure has the right to request a written statement explaining the reasons for denial. The employer or licensing agency must provide the written statement within 30 days of the request.

NY Labor Law § 194-a

Employers are forbidden from asking candidates or their former employers about a candidate’s salary history (including current or former wages, salary, benefits, or other compensation) and using that information to determine what salary they will receive in the position for which they’re applying. However, employers can talk to job applicants about their expectations for salary, benefits, and other compensation. Salary history that a candidate voluntarily discloses to an employer without prompting can be used in setting the salary.

marijuana regulation and taxation act (MRTA)

In October 2021, MRTA revised Section 201-D of the New York Labor Law (NYLL), expanding restrictions on pre-employment cannabis testing statewide. (Testing was already restricted in New York City.) Job applicants in New York State can be only tested for cannabis if: 

  1. State or federal law requires cannabis testing for the position (such as a driving job regulated by the Department of Transportation or a job involving public safety); or 
  2. Failing to conduct cannabis testing would otherwise violate federal law or cause the employer to lose federal funding or a federal contract. 

New York City Fair Chance Act

Employers are prohibited from conducting criminal background checks until a conditional offer of employment has been made. As a result, many employers wait until making an offer to conduct all of their background checks. The New York City Human Rights Local Law 4, which took effect July 29, 2021, makes this practice risky. Under Local Law 4, best practice for employers is to conduct non-criminal background checks (such as employment and education verification) first. Checks of criminal and MVR records (which may reveal criminal convictions such as DUI or DWI) should be performed only after making a conditional offer of employment. 

The law applies to any employer with four or more employees (including owner/s; paid or unpaid interns; and full-time, part-time, or temporary employees) if at least one of them works in New York City. Exceptions are made if state or federal law prohibits individuals with criminal records from holding certain jobs.

To support compliance with this New York City background check law, GoodHire customers can opt for a two-step screening process that performs all non-criminal checks first. After you review the results, you can conduct a second screening to search for criminal records and MVR reports. 

There are other cities and counties in New York with local ban-the-box and fair hiring laws that may apply to you or your candidates, as listed in the county resources below.

NEW YORK CITY Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act

Most New York City employers are prohibited from checking job candidates’ credit or asking questions about credit history when making employment decisions. The law applies to any employer with four or more employees (including owners). The employees don’t have to all work in the same location or all work in New York City. Credit information can be used in hiring decisions only for police and peace officers and executive-level jobs that have power over finances, computer security, or trade secrets. 

All employers in New York must observe the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law regulating background checks. The FCRA governs when employers can conduct background screenings, how to inform candidates you’ll be doing a background check and get their consent, and how to share results with the job applicant. It also specifies the adverse action process to follow if you opt to deny employment based on the results of a background check. When a New York state, city, or county background check law is stricter than the FCRA, employers may wish to comply with the strictest laws to avoid potential liability.

County Resources

The following resources provide more information about background check laws governing major cities and counties in New York. 

Albany County

Located in the east central part of the state, Albany County has 313,700 residents in 522 square miles. Albany, the state capital, is the largest city, followed by Cohoes and Watervliet. Administrative, management, and other white-collar jobs are the primary occupations in Albany County, part of an area known as “Tech Valley,” and home to 12 colleges and universities. 

Public Information & Records: 

Albany County has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Get A New York State Background Check Today

Get Started
GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.

Bronx County

Bronx County is consolidated with the Bronx, one of the five boroughs comprising New York City. Its 57 square miles are home to 1.43 million people, making it the third most densely populated county in the US. It is known for Yankee Stadium, home field for the MLB’s New York Yankees, as well as the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.

Note: The City of New York is made up of five boroughs. Each borough is a county of New York State. 

Public Information & Records: 

Dutchess County

With the Hudson River on its west and the New York-Connecticut border on its east, Dutchess County occupies 825 square miles in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City. One of New York’s first counties, it has a population of 297,000. Poughkeepsie is the county seat and biggest city, followed by Beacon. Healthcare, administrative, and managerial jobs dominate this county. 

Public Information & Records: 

There is a ban-the-box law in Dutchess County. Learn more.

Erie County

Bordering Lake Erie and Ontario, Canada, in upstate New York, Erie County has 954,236 residents. Boasting 1,227 square miles in size, it’s one of New York’s most densely populated and fastest-growing counties. Buffalo is the biggest city and county seat, and home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. 

Public Information & Records: 

The city of Buffalo has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Kings County

The largest county in New York, Kings County is consolidated with Brooklyn, the most populous of New York City’s boroughs, with a population of 2.73 million in 97 square miles. The home of the Brooklyn Bridge, Kings County is located at the southwestern end of Long Island, surrounded by water on three sides. In recent years it has gentrified; while parts have become upscale hipster communities, many ethnic neighborhoods remain. 

Public Information & Records: 

Monroe County

Located in the Finger Lakes area, Monroe County is south of the border with Ontario, Canada. It has a population of 755,000 in 1,367 square miles. Monroe County is home to the international headquarters of many global businesses as well as many small tech startups and is known as the world capital of imaging. Rochester is its biggest city and county seat. 

Public Information & Records: 

The city of Rochester has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Nassau County

The state’s most affluent county, Nassau County is directly east of New York City, where many residents work. However, it also has a strong white-collar economy of its own, and is home to many colleges and universities. Nassau County has 1.39 million residents in 453 square miles. Its county seat is Mineola; the largest towns are Hempstead, Levittown (the nation’s first planned community), and Freeport. 

Public Information & Records: 

New York County

Packing a population of 1.69 million and more than 1 million commuters per day into 33.6 square miles, New York County, which is consolidated with the borough of Manhattan, is the cultural and economic center of the US and perhaps the world. The “Big Apple” houses Wall Street as well as dozens of top tourist attractions, media companies, historic sites, and cultural institutions. The Upper East Side is its most populous neighborhood.

Public Information & Records: 

A ban-the-box law applies in New York City. Learn more.

Niagara County

Niagara County has 212,666 residents, is surrounded by water on three sides and borders Ontario, Canada. Some 617 of its 1,140 square miles are water: it’s home to many lakes, as well as Niagara Falls. The city of Niagara Falls is the county’s most populous, followed by North Tonawanda and Lockport, the county seat. Tourism and agriculture are its top industries. 

Public Information & Records: 

Oneida County

Situated in the center of the state, Oneida County is home to the Adirondacks and the Erie Canal. A population of 232,125 occupies its 1,258 square miles. Utica is the most populous city and county seat. Formerly a manufacturing area, Oneida County is now home to the Oneida Indian Nation, the tribe for which it’s named. The Oneida Indian Nation Casino is one of the region’s biggest employers.

Public Information & Records: 

Onondaga County

Onondaga County is in the Finger Lakes region of New York, with a population of 476,516 in 806 square miles. Syracuse is the most populous city, the county seat, and home to Syracuse University. Healthcare and education are the major industries.

Public Information & Records: 

Syracuse has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Orange County

Home to the West Point military academy, Orange County is located on the Hudson River in the southeastern part of the state. With a population of 401,310 in 839 square miles, the county’s most populous cities are Newburgh, Middletown, and Kiryas Joel. It is the only county in New York State which borders both the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

Public Information & Records: 

The city of Newburgh has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Queens County

Queens County is consolidated with the borough of Queens, the largest of New York City’s five boroughs. Its 178 square miles (of which 70 is water) are home to 2.4 million residents, as well as the New York Mets, JFK International and LaGuardia airports, and the US Open tennis tournament. With neighborhoods reflecting the heritage of the immigrants who settled there, Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the nation.

Public Information & Records: 

Richmond County

Richmond County is consolidated with the borough of Staten Island. It’s closer to New Jersey than it is to the rest of New York City. Almost half of Staten Island’s 102.5 square miles are water. Four bridges connect Staten Island to New Jersey, but none connect it to New York City; residents going into Manhattan must take the Staten Island Ferry. The population of 495,747 primarily works in healthcare, education, and retail.

Public Information & Records: 

Rockland County

Situated in the southernmost part of New York State, Rockland County gets its name from the rocky terrain covering much of its 199 square miles. Almost one-third of the county is parkland. Rockland County also has the largest Jewish population per capita of any US county; over 30% of its 338,329 residents are Jewish. New City (the county seat), Spring Valley, and Monsey are the most populous cities. 

Public Information & Records: 

Saratoga County

Located in upstate New York, Saratoga County is part of the state’s “Tech Valley,” the site of many computer hardware and venture capital firms. The affluent community of 

235,509 occupies 844 square miles, bordered by the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. Saratoga Springs, Mechanicville, and county seat Ballston Spa are its most populous cities. 

Public Information & Records: 

Suffolk County

Over 1,400 of Suffolk County’s 2,373 square miles are water, befitting one of Long Island’s counties. The county has 1.52 million residents; Brentwood, West Babylon, and Coram are the most populous cities. Suffolk County boasts diverse industries, including several universities, scientific research facilities, the high-tech Route 110 corridor, and a plethora of farms and wineries that make it the biggest agricultural county in the state.

Public Information & Records: 

Suffolk County has a ban-the-box law. Learn more.

Tompkins County

Tompkins County’s most populous city is Ithaca, also the county seat and the home of Cornell University. Occupying 492 square miles in the Finger Lakes region, the county has a population of 105,740 and boasts four state parks. Education is its biggest industry.

Public Information & Records: 

Tompkins County has a ban-the-box law, as does the city of Ithaca. Learn more.

Ulster County

Home to the Catskill Mountains and numerous nature preserves and forests, Ulster County is a popular vacation spot. Its 1,161 square miles sit in the middle of the Hudson River Valley, bordered by the Hudson River. Agriculture is a major industry for the county’s 181,851 residents. Kingston, the county seat, is the most populous city, followed by New Paltz.

Public Information & Records: 

Ulster County has a ban-the-box law, as do two cities in the county: Kingston and

Woodstock. Learn more.

Westchester County

Westchester’s Long Island Sound shore features harbors, beaches, and nature preserves, but is also home to thriving high-tech and biotech industries. With a population of one million in 500 square miles, the county’s most populous cities are Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon. Westchester was one of the nation’s earliest suburbs. 

Public Information & Records: 

Westchester County has a ban-the-box law, as does the city of Yonkers. Learn more

Get a New York Background Check With GoodHire

Background checks have become a vital step in making informed hiring decisions. New York State’s many laws regulating employment screenings can make it challenging to find and review the information you need, while remaining legally compliant. Using a trusted, third party provider, like GoodHire, can simplify the process. 

GoodHire’s more than 100 screening options provide a comprehensive and FCRA-compliant suite of services for your background check needs. Our easy-to-use platform is built to optimize speed and data accuracy, with automated features built in to streamline compliance. To learn more about background checks with GoodHire, reach out to our sales team.

Get A Michigan Background Check Today

Get Started
GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.
Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.