State moves to prevent employment discrimination

Assemblymember David Weprin stands at the state Capitol. AP Photo/Hans Pennink.

Assemblymember David Weprin stands at the state Capitol. AP Photo/Hans Pennink.

By Jonathan Sperling

The new state budget will close a legal loophole that has allowed employers to turn away prospective workers with court cases that have been adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. The measure was championed by Queens Assemblymember David Weprin.

The budget includes specific language barring employers from denying employment to prospective workers or preventing suspended employees from returning to work just because they have an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) — a legal mechanism used to dismiss and seal charges, contingent on a defendant practicing “good behavior” for up to six months or one year.

“For decades, low-income New Yorkers were subjected to rampant employment discrimination after their criminal cases were resolved with an ACD,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “By closing the ACD loophole, New York State has corrected a serious injustice and ensured that New Yorkers with open ACDs will have the opportunity to work and support their families.”

An ACD does not equate to an admission of guilt, nor is it a conviction or plea agreement, but a defendant’s case appears as open while they have an ACD. This allows employers to discriminate against prospective workers with pending ACDs under existing law.

The new reform will mandate that employers be prohibited from discriminating against employees or job applicants with ACDs. Employers will also be required to lift suspensions so that employees with ACDs can return to work.

Weprin, who represents parts of Richmond Hill, Jamaica Estates and Briarwood, introduced a proposal prohibiting ACD-related discrimination in the state Assembly earlier this year. State Sen. Jose Serrano sponsored a proposal at the Senate level.

“Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) is a tool used to dismiss and seal charges of those accused but not convicted of crimes but has been used unjustly by employers to deny employment to individuals involved in the criminal justice system,” said Weprin in a statement. “In this year’s budget we have finally eliminated this egregious injustice ensuring that thousands of New Yorker's will get a fair chance at obtaining a job.”