Late last year, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced there would be a ramped-up effort to identify and address violations of the state’s so-called “ban-the-box” law, more formally known as the Fair Chance Act. The statute was enacted four years ago as an amendment to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and bars employers with five or more employees from directly or indirectly asking about, seeking disclosure of, or even considering the conviction history of an applicant until after the applicant is extended a conditional job offer. This includes asking questions about it on job applications (typically a yes-no question with boxes that can be checked – hence the “ban the box” language).
The law also does not allow employers to indicate on their job listings that they won’t consider job applicants with criminal history. If you see a job advertisement in California with language like, “Must have a clean record,” or “No felons,” it probably violates the ban the box law.
Despite the well-publicized passage of this statute, state regulators continue find non-compliant advertisements and other hiring materials, particularly online. In fact, the DFEH reported that in just one day spent reviewing online job ads with technology designed to facilitate mass searches. In that single day, the agency uncovered more than 500 ads containing illegal statements, indicating job seekers with criminal backgrounds wouldn’t be considered. The agency apparently decided against penalizing the offending employers, and instead issued notices of violations and warnings to remove the unlawful portions of their ads.
As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, the legal consequences for failure to comply with the Fair Chance Act can include not only the remedies pursued by FEHA, but compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees from the prospective employees adversely impacted.
California Ban the Box FAQ
California’s ban the box law is commonly misunderstood by job applicants and employers alike. The law is intended to give ex-offenders a chance to have a prospective employer review their application based on their qualifications, without simply being automatically disqualified because they have a criminal record. It became effective Jan. 1, 2018. Continue Reading ›