Did you know it is illegal in New York to decline to hire someone because of their criminal record? You can only slam the door if management shows an unhealthy connection between the crime and the job, i.e., a convicted embezzler cannot work as the comptroller. This case broadly interprets the statute.
The case is Sassi v. Mobile Life Services, issued by the New York Court of Appeals on October 12. Plaintiff worked for Mobile Life. After Sassi began working there, he was convicted for calling in a false emergency to 911. He was sentenced to 60 days' incarceration, which of course cost him his job. When Sassi was released from jail, he told Mobile Life that he wanted his job back. Human Resources told Sassi that the company had previously fired others who had been incarcerated and so, consistent with company policy, it could not bring him back, either. Sassi sues under the Correction Law article 23-A over this refusal to re-employ him.
The lower courts said Sassi has no case because he was convicted during his employment. The Court of Appeals unanimously reverses and finds that Sassi can return to work provided his crime does not create any kind of risk for Mobile Life, what we call the "direct relationship" test under the statute. Under the Correction Law, these protections apply to "any application by any person for a license or employment . . . who has previously been convicted of one or more offenses."
Writing for the Court, Chief Judge DiFiore states that while the legislature may not have considered this precise scenario -- a request for re-employment with a pre-incarceration employer -- the statute protects Sassi in any event. The statutory language makes a difference here, stating that the law protects "any application by any person" for employment. "Any" means any. That would include re-employment to your old job that you lost upon the conviction. What also help Sassi is the statutory objective: allowing convicted persons a chance at re-entering society and making a living without having your criminal record follow you around for the rest of your life.
I would guess that Mobile Life will argue on remand that it cannot re-hire Sassi because there is a direct connection between Mobile Life's mission (it is an ambulance service) and Sassi's conviction (falsely reporting an emergency to 911). But that is for the lower courts to worry about. For now, the Court of Appeals offers what is perhaps the broadest interpretation of this statute in years