Man convicted of murder sues NYU after being denied Campus Safety job

A man who applied for a Campus Safety officer position at NYU is suing the university after he was not hired due to a nearly 50-year old murder conviction.

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Kevin Wu

The lawsuit against NYU is filed on the basis of New York State Human Rights Law. (Illustration by Kevin Wu; Manaal Shareh for WSN)

Tori Morales, Deputy News Editor

A rejected applicant for a job with NYU’s Campus Safety Department is suing the university for allegedly violating human rights laws in New York by not hiring him due to his criminal background. The applicant, Ronald Davidson, was convicted in 1972 of murdering three acquaintances who he claimed had attempted to rob him with knives. 

Davidson, who was 17 at the time of the offense, remained in prison until 2016 — during which time he filed over 150 lawsuits against the Department of Corrections.

“Mr. Davidson is seeking to hold NYU accountable for unlawfully denying him employment as an unarmed public safety officer based solely on his nearly 50-year-old criminal conviction,” Davidson’s legal counsel, Amy Robinson, said. “NYU ignored Mr. Davidson’s exceptional qualifications and his overwhelming evidence of rehabilitation.”

During his 43-year incarceration, Davidson earned an associates degree, acquired a bachelor’s degree and completed an anger management course. After his release, he qualified to register as a security guard in 2018 and earned three safety certifications from the New York City Fire Department. He also earned a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities — a route to removing some of the barriers to employment, licensure and education that usually accompany a conviction. New York law instructs employers that a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities implies a presumption of rehabilitation.

In his suit, Davidson demands that NYU pay lost wages he could have earned as a Campus Safety officer, compensation for emotional suffering, and punitive damages, which are intended to punish NYU and deter the institution from similar conduct in the future. Davidson also asks that the court make NYU pay his attorney’s fees as well as other costs incurred in the litigation.

In New York, most employers cannot deny employment based on an applicant’s previous criminal record unless there is a direct relationship between the crime and the job position, or if granting the position would create an unreasonable risk to people or property. 

NYU has denied that it broke the law. John Beckman, a spokesperson for the university, said that it intends to challenge Davidson’s lawsuit in court.

“NYU fully complies with New York State as well as New York City laws and believes in the redemptive power of second chances, very much including those who have been convicted of a crime,” said university spokesperson John Beckman. “As recognized in New York law, there are certain instances where the criminal conviction and the position being sought are simply incompatible; a triple homicide and a Campus Safety Officer’s position — a position that is entrusted with safety and welfare of members of the campus community — is one of those instances.”

In determining hiring risk, employers must consider eight factors, which include the time elapsed since the crime, the seriousness of the crime, the offender’s age at the time of the crime, and any supporting documentation — such as a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. 

While incarcerated, some of Davidson’s lawsuits alleged that the Department of Correctional Services denied him basic necessities such as toothpaste. According to a case decided after his release in 2021, Davidson filed more than 150 cases against the DOC, many of which were dismissed by courts.

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected]