California’s Private Employer Ban the Box Policy Takes Effect

By Michael Klazema on 1/1/2018
As the most populous state in the country, California is now the largest jurisdiction to implement ban the box policies for private employers. Per a report from The Californian, the state’s brand-new ban the box law is officially in effect as of Monday, January 1. The law requires all private businesses with more than five employees to remove questions about criminal history from their job applications.

The ban the box movement has gathered considerable steam in recent years, reports note. For the most part, those laws have only applied to public agencies. An older California state law banned the box for public employers but allowed private companies to keep the “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” query on their job applications.

The new law expands the regulatory measures to include all but the smallest private businesses. The law—previously known as Assembly Bill 1008—makes across-the-board ban the box policies a part of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

California is not the first state to ban the box for private employers as well as public agencies, reports confirm. Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have all banned the box for private employers, as has Washington, D.C. Previously, Illinois was the largest state to ban the box for private employers, with a 2013 reported population of more than 12 million. With more than 38 million people and a booming business scene—particularly in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area—California’s population will be significantly affected by the new law.

In addition to prompting employers to pull criminal history questions from job application materials, the new policy will also impact background check policies. Like other ban the box policies, coverage notes, Assembly Bill 1008 does not bar employers from conducting background screenings on job candidates. What it does do is require that an employer extend a conditional offer of employment to a candidate before running a background check.

This delay in screening is designed so ex-offenders can prove themselves and their qualifications before past misdeeds become a part of the conversation, supporters note. Proponents of the legislation believe Assembly Bill 1008 will help reduce recidivism by encouraging more companies to give ex-offenders a second chance.

There are some employers that are exempt from the new rules. Small companies with fewer than five employees can ask about criminal histories on job applications if they wish to do so. Law enforcement agencies are also exempt from the law. All other businesses in California will need to revamp their job application materials for the New Year.


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