Ban the Box-2A new law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will prohibit employers in California from including criminal history inquiries on employment applications before making a conditional offer of employment. AB 1008 applies to all California employers with 5 or more employees and will go into effect January 1. California has had a “ban the box” law for city, county and state employers since 2014. The new law extends the ban to private sector employers.  Fifteen local jurisdictions, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, already have such private sector bans in place.

The goal is to give Californians with a prior arrest or conviction a fair chance at finding a job and moving forward.

AB 1008 makes it unlawful for employers to:

  • Include questions on employment applications about criminal history
  • Ask about or consider the conviction history of an applicant before the applicant receives a conditional offer of employment; and
  • Consider, distribute, or disseminate information about arrests that did not result in a conviction.

The bill also requires that, before rejecting an applicant based on criminal history, the employer must first make an “individual assessment” to determine whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job. The employer must consider each of the following:

  1. The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct;
  2. The time that has passed since the offense or conduct and completion of the sentence; and
  3. The nature of the job held or sought.

If the employer makes a preliminary decision not to hire the applicant in part or solely due their criminal history, they must notify the applicant in writing and give them at least 5 business days to respond. If the applicant notifies the employer in a timely manner that they dispute the accuracy of the conviction history, and are taking steps to obtain evidence to prove its inaccuracy, the employer must provide the applicant 5 additional business days to respond. By law, the employer must consider the applicant’s response before making a final decision.

From a business perspective, banning “the box” can expand the pool of potential employees in what is a very competitive market. Individuals with arrest records or convictions for even minor offenses often have difficulty getting that first opportunity to begin turning their life around. A former client of mine who gave someone that opportunity had a very positive experience. Through a program with the EDD, she hired someone who had served time for a minor offense to work in the company call center. The individual was anxious to get some experience, and to be able to support their family. The program had very specific requirements that the employee had to adhere to, e.g., weekly drug testing, and attending meetings with their parole officer.  It turned out to be a win-win. The employer got a motivated employee, and the employee got a fresh start.

Remember that in light of the new law, AB 1008, you may need to make changes to your employment application form and hiring procedures. Please contact me if you need help in doing so.