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.”

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