New York City Transit Authority Hires WEP Workers Initially Denied Employment Because of Their Prior Criminal Convictions After Legal Aid and Crowell & Moring Brought a Lawsuit
MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015

In the Matter of William Weidig & Keith Smith v. New York City Transit Authority & Thomas Prendergast, Kings County Supreme Index No. 10883/2013, The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit together with Crowell & Moring LLP, represented former workers placed with the New York City Transit Authority (“NYCTA”) through the NYC’s Work Experience Program (“WEP”) who had been denied full-time paid employment as a Cleaner after having successfully performed the job duties and responsibilities for more than one year as a Cleaner for the NYCTA. The WEP workers claimed that they were discriminated because of their prior criminal convictions in violation of Article 23-A of the NY Correction Law, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Under New York law, an employer cannot simply review a criminal history in isolation and make an employment determination on that basis. Rather, the employer must first consider the applicant’s previous convictions in light of the eight factors set forth in §753 of the NY Correction Law, which includes requesting and considering any evidence of an applicant’s rehabilitation.

In settlement of an appeal on Judge David Schmidt’s decision dated January 23, 2014, the New York City Transit Authority agreed to explicitly direct applicants to submit evidence of rehabilitation at the same time as requesting information related to a criminal conviction history.

Further, the New York City Transit Authority has offered full-time employment to the WEP workers who challenged their hiring practices. Mr. Weidig commenced his employment with the New York City Transit Authority as of June 1, 2015 and the Mr. Smith commences his employment with the New York City Transit Authority on June 15, 2015.

Staffing in this case included Staff Attorney Amy Hong and Supervising Attorney Karen Cacace from The Legal Aid Society and Jared Levine and Harry Cohen from Crowell & Moring LLP.