Omid Nosrati

Will this be the year that lawmakers truly 'ban-the-box' across California?

Now that the February 17 deadline for introducing bills has passed in the California State Legislature, both chambers can officially begin the always taxing work of shepherding major reform measures and pet projects alike through committees and onto the floor for a vote.

While it goes without saying that issues like immigration, taxes and health care will take center stage over the next few months, there are other areas in which significant changes will likely also be pursued, including employment law.

Indeed, one employment law measure that will undoubtedly generate many headlines is Assembly Bill 1008, otherwise known as the "ban-the-box" bill.

For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it essentially refers to the longstanding practice of employers requiring applicants to check a box if they have a criminal record, and automatically -- and unfairly -- disqualifying those that must do so.   

The last several years have seen an increasing number of state and local governments across the nation enacting measures prohibiting employers from inquiring about the criminal records of applicants until later in the selection process.

Indeed, California passed a ban-the-box bill back in 2013 dictating that, with the exception of certain designated circumstances, cities and state agencies cannot ask about or use information about criminal convictions during the hiring process.

What the aforementioned AB 1008 would do, if passed, is extend this prohibition to all private employers in the Golden State. Specifically, it would make the following amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act:

  • Prohibit private employers from looking into an applicant's criminal record until a conditional offer of employment is extended
  • Introduce new notice and disclosure requirements in the event a private employer seeks to acquire information about a person's criminal record
  • Preclude private employers from considering certain items in a person's criminal record when conducting their background checks (arrests with no conviction, convictions dismissed, sealed or expunged, misdemeanor convictions without a jail sentence, etc.)   

It will be interesting to see what happens regarding AB 1008. Experts indicate that the Democratic supermajority currently enjoyed in both chambers, which provides the ability to override any gubernatorial veto, means its chances of becoming law are very good.

Stay tuned for updates ...  

If you have questions or concerns relating to any employment-related matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can explain the law, outline your options and pursue the necessary solutions.

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