Protections Against Employment Discrimination
Unless parolees have a mandatory disability imposed on them by law, the law requires employers with whom they have applied to consider a number of factors, including whether they have a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.
Also, employers are forbidden to ask about or consider arrests that did not lead to conviction. Employers and licensing agencies are prohibited from denying an employment application because of a criminal record unless:
- There is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the specific license or employment sought; or
- The issuance of the license or the granting of the employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.
As a result of felony and certain misdemeanor convictions, parolees may be prohibited by law from engaging in certain types of employment and from applying for certain types of licenses. These disabilities may continue even after completion of the sentence imposed by the Court.
The Department, in its discretion, may issue a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Certificate of Good Conduct. A certificate may remove mandatory disabilities in general and/or those specifically indicated by the Department.
Legal bars to licenses and employment are contained in various laws enacted by the State Legislature. Some examples include employment as a barber, security guard, private investigator, insurance broker, as well as licenses to sell liquor wholesale or retail, and licenses for real estate brokers and notary publics. This is not a complete list.
Certificate of Relief
By law, a parolee is eligible for a Certificate of Relief if they have not been convicted of more than one felony. For this purpose, two or more felony convictions stemming from the same indictment count as one felony. Two or more convictions stemming from two or more separate indictments filed in the same court, prior to conviction under any of them, also count as one felony.
The Department may also issue a Certificate of Relief if an eligible parolee has been convicted in another jurisdiction and now lives in New York State.
A Certificate of Relief may be issued upon an eligible inmate's release from a correctional facility or at any time thereafter.
A Certificate of Relief may remove any mandatory legal bar or disability imposed as a result of conviction of the crime or crimes specified in the certificate.
The Certificate of Relief does not, however, enable a parolee to retain or become eligible for public office. Note that removing mandatory legal bars restores their right to apply and be considered for employment or license, but does not guarantee it will be granted.
A Certificate of Relief also restores their right to register to vote and to actually vote.
A Certificate of Relief issued upon release, or once on supervision, is a temporary certificate. This certificate becomes permanent when they are discharged from supervision. During the time it is temporary, the certificate may be revoked for a violation of the conditions of release.
If a parolee has not completed their sentence, they cannot apply directly for a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct. The application is submitted to the Department's Certificate Review Unit by their PO. If they are under supervision, they should discuss their desire to apply for a Certificate with their PO.
Certificate of Good Conduct
In contrast to the Certificate of Relief, parolees are eligible for the Certificate of Good Conduct even if they have been convicted of more than one felony. However, they do not become eligible for a Certificate of Good Conduct until a minimum period of time has elapsed from the date of their unrevoked release from custody to supervision or from the date their sentence ended.
If the most serious conviction in their criminal history was for a C, D or an E felony, they must wait at least three years from the date of their last conviction, payment of fine, or release from prison to community supervision, whichever is later. The individual will have to wait at least five years from their last conviction, payment of fine, or release from prison onto supervision if their most serious conviction was for an A or a B felony.
A Certificate of Good Conduct has the same effect as the Certificate of Relief. In addition, the Certificate of Good Conduct may restore their right to seek public office.
The certificate may remove mandatory disabilities in general and/or those specifically indicated by the Department. A Certificate of Good Conduct also restores their right to register to vote and to actually vote.
The Certificate of Good Conduct issued while under supervision is a temporary certificate. The certificate will become permanent upon discharge from supervision. During the time it is temporary, it may be revoked by for a violation of the conditions of release.
Restoration of Voting Rights
The right to register and vote is restored when parolees have reached the maximum expiration of sentence or period of post-release supervision, been discharged by DOCCS, or been discharged by the Board of Parole. Parolees been granted a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct while on community supervision may register to vote. Parolees under supervision may also regain the right to register and vote in response to the issuance of a conditional pardon by the Governor under Executive Order No. 181.
To register to vote, a voter registration form must be completed and delivered to the local Board of Elections. Registration forms are available at many government agencies, on the Internet, or by calling 1-800-FOR-VOTE. Individuals who have completed their sentence, their period of post-release supervision, or been granted discharge from supervision do not need to provide a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or other documentation to a local Board of Elections.
Information on Certificates of Relief and Good Conduct, Licenses and Employment
Article 23 of the New York Correction Law deals with Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct.
Article 23A of the Correction Law deals with licenses and employment of persons convicted of criminal offenses. Any individual on parole should consult with their PO about specific questions they may have.