More and more employers in California are becoming subject to legal restrictions on the use of criminal history information when making employment decisions. The City of San Francisco passed the Fair Chance Ordinance, which became effective in August 2014, prohibiting employers with at least twenty (20) employees from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history on an employment application and from asking about criminal history information during an initial employment interview.
Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles enacted the Fair Chance Initiative Ordinance, which prohibits private employers in Los Angeles with at least ten (10) employees from inquiring into or seeking a job applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. An employment offer may be expressly conditioned on the successful completion of an appropriate background check, but even that must be limited to review of certain types of convictions, by the date of convictions, and by certain other factors. Effective July 1, 2017, violations of the ordinance will be subject to monetary penalties and administrative fines, which range from $500 for the first violation to up to $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
This is part of a broader trend in California and around the country. Notably, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council approved new state-wide regulations that also limit employers’ use of criminal history when making employment decisions. In addition, the California legislature is currently considering further state-wide restrictions on an employer’s ability to make hiring and other employment decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s criminal record.
Covered employers will need to immediately amend any employment applications and other documents and policies to remove preliminary questions about criminal background. They will also need to navigate carefully between the newly enacted California regulations, the Los Angeles ordinance, and any other federal, state, or local ordinances, such as San Francisco and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, that may affect their criminal background screening policies and practices.
All of the attorneys in the JMBM Labor & Employment Department are available to assist with a quick review of applications and other policies and documents to ensure compliance with these statutes and to advise on these very important issues.