A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Party City To End Discrimination In Hiring Based On Criminal Records

Agreement Ensures that Job Opportunities Will Not Be Automatically Denied to Individuals with Criminal Histories

A.G. Schneiderman: My Office is Committed to Eliminating Barriers to Reentry

NEW YORK– Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement today with Party City, a national retailer employing nearly 5,000 people in 49 stores across New York State.  The settlement will ensure that the company complies with state laws prohibiting discrimination against individuals with criminal records.  Under the terms of the agreement, Party City will no longer automatically disqualify individuals with felony convictions from advancing in the company.   

“An applicant’s criminal history does not give employers a right to slam the door in his face,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “Reentry efforts provide critical opportunities to reduce recidivism, ensuring that everyone gets a fair shot and ultimately making our communities safer.  My office will continue to enforce the law that prohibits employers from automatically disqualifying applicants based on criminal history.”

“Having a past conviction should not prevent someone from being able to put food on the table or pay their rent,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. “We must remove barriers to success for those who are qualified to work. As the co-lead sponsor of New York City’s Fair Chance Act, I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for fighting to ensure that large companies like Party City ‘ban the box’ on employment applications. It is my hope New York City joins the ranks of more than ten states and sixty cities that have passed similar legislation to give all applicants a fair chance at employment.”

Under New York State law, before an employer can reject applicants based on their criminal history, the employer must individually assess the applicant’s record to determine whether it is relevant to the job.  Specifically, the employer must consider several 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 has 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 Civil Rights Bureau has made enforcement of this law a priority to ensure that every New Yorker has the chance to earn a living and lead a productive life after paying his or her debt to society.

The Attorney General’s investigation uncovered statements made by a human resources manager for Party City who, at a job fair, stated that the company did not hire individuals with felony convictions.  A manager at a store in New York City subsequently confirmed that individuals with felony convictions could not obtain full-time employment with the company.  The Attorney General also reviewed Party City’s hiring decisions and its policies, procedures, and training. Ultimately, the Attorney General determined that Party City refused to allow individuals with felony convictions to move beyond part-time seasonal positions in the company.    

As part of the settlement, Party City has agreed to:

  • revise its hiring policies and procedures;
  • conduct training for employees to ensure fair consideration of all job applicants;
  • conduct outreach and recruiting efforts with non-profits that specialize in job training and rehabilitation of individuals with criminal records;
  • reconsider applications from hundreds of former applicants who may have been denied employment opportunities unlawfully;
  • submit periodic reports to verify its continued compliance with the law for a period of three years; and
  • pay a $95,000 penalty

Finally, the company has agreed to remove any inquiry regarding criminal history from the employment application used at its stores.  By taking this step, Party City joins Bed Bath & Beyond as the second company to “Ban the Box” pursuant to enforcement efforts of the Attorney General’s Office.

Each year, nearly 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons, and another 12 million are funneled through local jails.  Data provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that more than 100 million individuals have a criminal history on record.  Reentry efforts are important to preventing recidivism among these individuals, and access to gainful employment opportunities is key.

Sally Friedman, Legal Director of the Legal Action Center, said: “Opportunity means more than just obtaining seasonal appointments.  By restricting meaningful advancement opportunities for arbitrary reasons, businesses discriminate against qualified applicants with criminal histories.  With this agreement Attorney General Schneiderman has taken an important step in combating discrimination.”

JoAnne Page, President and CEO of the Fortune Society, said: “The opportunity to obtain gainful employment is important for an individual seeking to adjust to life outside prison. When employers erect arbitrary barriers that inhibit those opportunities, they hurt an individual’s chance to fully rehabilitate, they work against the public interest in denying individuals opportunities to support their families and pay taxes, and they deny their businesses access to talented and motivated potential employees. I commend the Attorney General for making this a priority civil rights issue.”

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Sandra Pullman and Ajay Saini, with assistance from Legal Assistant Shamika Rosario, in the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General's Office is committed to promoting access to equal employment opportunities and combating discrimination for all New Yorkers. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.   

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