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Criminal history questions on job applications could soon become - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Criminal history questions on job applications could soon become illegal

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Legislation barring employers from initially asking job applicants if they have a criminal history was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk over the weekend. 

The bill was introduced in February, the state Assembly approved AB1008 on Friday, and it now awaits the governor's signature.

Supporters say ex-felons would be able to get more jobs and potentially stay out of trouble. Lawmakers say employers would still be able to ask about criminal history but not until the applicant has received a conditional job offer.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty is one of the politicians behind the bill. If passed, it would help more ex-felons get a second chance.

"For the applicant, especially someone who has a criminal history, it gives them a chance to highlight their qualifications of the job before they have to explain some criminal history that might disqualify them from the job," Kathy Eppright, an attorney in San Luis Obispo, said.

Mychal Cody, manager of Pizza La Nova in San Lis Obispo, says it's important to know who they have on staff when it comes to someone's background.

"They're not only taking the charge of representing our business, and so to be able to clearly identify who that person is going to be could really have an effect on our business," Cody said. 

However, Cody says Pizza La Nova won't judge anyone who applies.

"If they're hard-working and they're trying to make a change in their life and we can be that step forward for them, we want to be that," Cody said.

For some employers, if this bill becomes a law, it could become difficult to scrutinize potential employees without knowing their criminal history, according to Eppright.

"So once they make the offer, then they can say, 'We're going to make it conditional on a background check,'" Eppright said. "Then they have to connect it. If there is something in the background, they have to show how the offense relates to the job the person's applying for."

Employers who deny applicants because of their criminal history must have a good reason.

"Let's say somebody has a DUI in their background and they apply to work at a Starbucks. It would be hard to connect the dots between the connection and why it would disqualify them from being a barista for Starbucks," Eppright said.

The bill would make the following employment practices unlawful under FEHA for an employer with five or more employees:

  • Including questions about criminal history on employment applications
  • Inquiring or considering the applicant's criminal history before offering a conditional job offer
  • Disseminating or distributing an applicant's conviction history background check

If the employer plans on denying an applicant based on their conviction history, the bill would require the employer to do an individualized review of whether or not their history would have a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job.

They would have to consider three stipulations: the nature of the offense, the time that has passed between the offense and sentence completion, and the nature of the job.

The employer would have to notify the person applying with a written decision, and the applicant is allowed five business days to respond, and an additional five days to dispute the decision with evidence.

There are some companies that require background checks by law, so they would be exempt from this bill if it becomes a law, according to Eppright.

Nine states and 15 cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have adopted similar regulations.

Read the full bill's text here.

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