The New York standard started as an idea of law professor Michael Meltsner and two of his students at Columbia University.
The law they created said that businesses could only deny someone a job due to their past convictions or arrests after considering eight factors, including the seriousness of the crime, how long ago it occurred and its relevance to the job. It was, and still is, unique among state laws, according to Meltsner.
“The notion wasn’t that embezzlers should have a right to work in banks,” says Meltsner, now a professor at Northeastern University. “The focus of the law was on providing a remedy for those whose crime had nothing to do with their employment goals.”
The goal was to stop a vicious cycle: People with criminal records find it harder to get a job, but not having a job makes it more likely they will re-offend.
“It was a great formal victory,” he says. “The problems, of course, came afterwards.”