California State Employers Can No Longer Ask for Criminal History on Job Applications

A new California law, in effect as of July 1, mandates that state and local agencies are no longer allowed to ask for job seekers' criminal histories on their initial job applications.

According to the language of AB 218, authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, "a state or local agency shall not ask an applicant for employment to disclose, orally or in writing, information concerning the conviction history of the applicant, including any inquiry about conviction history on any employment application, until the agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications, as stated in any notice issued for the position."

The law excludes positions where employers are legally required to conduct background checks, including jobs in law enforcement and public safety.

"If a person can't find a job, the odds increase dramatically that the person is simply going to return to what they were doing before," Dickinson told Capital Public Radio. "They'll end up offending again and in all likelihood returning to incarceration."

Still, the bill has stirred up controversy since it was first placed on Governor Jerry Brown's desk in September of last year.

"Their history is part of their resume, if you will," a critic of the bill told KCRA in an interview last year. "I think it's very important that a person's background comes to light."

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told KCRA he was uneasy about the potential for the mishandling of taxpayer money.

"Someone who has a conviction for example, for embezzlement, do we want them in a position where they are handling cash or financial transactions?" he asked.

Governor Brown signed the bill into law on October 10, 2013. PICO California, the "largest grassroots congregation-based community-organizing network in California," issued a press release that day, congratulating the governor for his leadership on bill.

"This legislation and the leadership of Governor Brown will allow millions of Californians to have an opportunity to contribute to society in a meaningful way," the statement read. "Thank you Governor for giving hope to these previously excluded workers."


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