Wednesday, March 4, 2015

“Ban the Box” Law Takes Effect in California

There are a lot of individuals with criminal records who find it difficult to land themselves jobs. More often than not, prospective employers turn the other way, refusing to hire such people who deserve a second chance in life. Fortunately in California, a new law took effect last July 1, which basically removed a certain “box” indicated on the job applicant forms. In this new legislation, no longer will an applicant be able to answer if he or she has had a criminal record.

Assembly Bill 218, which was passed into law October 10 last year and proposed by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), was implemented alongside the new California minimum wage hike of $9.00 per hour. AB 218 provides that it is no longer allowed for state and local government employers to ask applicants about their criminal records.

Public agencies covered by this law, however, can still inquire about applicants’ convictions, as long as they do so later on in the hiring process. Employers must first determine if the applicants meet the qualifications of the jobs they’re applying for.

Also noted here in this new California law is that there are exemptions for job applications requiring a criminal background check; for instance, job openings in criminal justice (e.g. police officer jobs) is exempted. Also, the “state or local government agency” that is defined under the law doesn’t include school district or community colleges.

Although AB 218 applies for employers within the public sector, a lot of local governments across California, from certain counties to cities, have applied certain fair hiring practices by going beyond what the new law requires. For instance, the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Clara; and the cities of Oakland, Anaheim, San Diego, San Jose, and Fresno, recognized that their local government agencies must delay asking applicants about their criminal history until they make a conditional offer of employment.

Additionally, the City of San Francisco’s “ban the box” ordinance extends coverage to not just public sector employers, but also for the private ones with 20 or more employees. The provisions are the same as that of AB 218, but the ordinance also prevents employers from seeking applicants’ criminal background until after the first “live” interview has taken place.

Meanwhile, according to a Los Angeles employment lawyer, only 12 states have had the same “ban the box” measures across the United States. Of the 12, only four applies for the private sector of employment—Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. The attorney also added that California’s new law enables former criminal offenders to be fairly included again in employment, especially during the hiring process.