California bill would 'ban the box' for private employers

California is considering banning private employers from asking applicants about their criminal past.

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent private employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made. According to the Sacramento Bee, the bill, A.B. 1008, is designed to give those who have served their sentence a better chance at reentering society successfully. The proposal is built on 'ban the box' campaigns that have become increasingly popular both in California and throughout the country. It would largely expand current 'ban the box' employment law that is in place for positions in the public sector to those in the private sector.

Banning the box for private employers

As the Society for Human Resource Management points out, A.B. 1008 would prohibit private employers from asking on a job application about an applicant's criminal history. Employers would only be allowed to ask about and consider an applicant's criminal history once a conditional offer of employment had already been made. Additionally, employers would not be able to use a misdemeanor conviction for which no jail sentence was imposed, a misdemeanor or infraction that is more than three years old, or a felony conviction that is more than seven years old as a reason for denying an applicant a job offer.

If the employer uses an applicant's criminal record in order to deny him or her a job, that employer must conduct an individual assessment about whether the applicant's criminal record would have had a "direct and adverse relationship" with the duties and responsibilities of the position. A.B. 1008 has not yet been passed by lawmakers and it could still go through changes before and if it becomes law.

Giving people with a criminal record a chance

California already prohibits state and local governments from asking job applicants about their criminal past except in special circumstances. If A.B. 1008 becomes law, however, it would be the first statewide attempt in California to ban the box for private employers. Some local governments, most notably San Francisco, have already introduced their own initiatives to ban the box for job positions in the private sector. Nine states also already have a ban-the-box policy for private companies.

The ban-the-box movement has gained nationwide traction over the past decade. Currently, 25 states and over 150 cities and counties have ban-the-box laws, either for public or private positions. While the approach has been controversial, supporters say it provides those who have a criminal history with a chance to get their foot in the door.

Employment law

Employment law in California is constantly evolving. While California workers enjoy some of the strongest protections in the country, violations still happen. Any employee whose rights may have been violated should contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help employees with their legal issues, including those related to possible discrimination and wrongful termination.