Every other Friday, individuals incarcerated at the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, New York, take the three-hour Know Your Employment Rights course on employment rights taught by the ILR Labor and Employment Law Program.
The course was established by ILR’s Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative in 2008 to provide education and research on reducing barriers to employment for people with criminal records.
The Queensboro program, funded by the New York State Assembly Labor Committee, is taught by Esta R. Bigler ’70, director of the initiative and the Labor and Employment Law Program, and by ILR’s Tim McNutt, a former prosecutor who is manager of the Cornell Project for Records Assistance.
As a labor and employment lawyer, Bigler focuses on the use of criminal records as a screening device for employment, the impact of employment on reducing recidivism, employer attitudes toward hiring people with criminal records and the collateral consequences of incarceration.
The Know Your Employment Rights interactive course developed by Bigler and McNutt is designed to promote self-advocacy and empower individuals to reach their employment goals after leaving Queensboro, which houses males who will be released in less than 120 days.
Over 150 participants have taken the course and class sizes continue to grow, Bigler said. “The program has been a huge success in helping the students understand their rights and how to use those rights in successfully finding and keeping a job.”
The course is a two-part curriculum focusing on criminal records and employment rights. The criminal record curriculum educates individuals on types of criminal records, how to access records, why it’s important to review records for accuracy and how to utilize remedies such as record correction and record sealing.
Mary Catt is assistant director of communications at the ILR School.