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California: Employers Can’t Ask about Criminal Background or Salary History

California: Employers Can’t Ask about Criminal Background or Salary History

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed another controversial law this month that dictates how much information an employer can receive before hiring a new employee.

The California Fair Chance Act prohibits employers with at least five or more employees from asking for a potential employee’s criminal background check until they have received an official job offer.

The law also requires an employer “make an individualized assessment of whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job.”

Another piece of legislation in the act passed states that employers are not able to access an applicant’s salary history.  

Similar legislation laws have passed in 9 other states.

The law “is one of the strongest fair-chance laws in the nation and certainly the one that benefits the most people,” according to Beth Avery, staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. 

The law has been put in place to protect the 8 million California residents with criminal records and to help make sure they don’t receive unfair prejudice during their job search  

“Given that California is home to approximately 1 in 10 of the 70 million people with records in this country, we expect the new law will directly benefit millions of Californians, while also influencing the hiring practices of major employers across the country,” said Avery.  

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and co-founder of All of Us or None, also applauded the new law.  

“The signing of the Fair Chance Act marks the latest step in the ‘ban the box’ campaign that All of Us or None began in 2003, and I thank everyone who has worked so diligently over the last 14 years to help formerly incarcerated and convicted people gain access to meaningful employment,” said Nunn. “Our persistence and dedication expose the false narrative that people directly impacted by the criminal justice system are lazy or unskilled—we have shown up time and time again to actively participate in the civic process to improve the lives of our families and communities, creating leaders at every step.” 

On the other hand, the two new pieces of legislation, which will go into effect on January 1, cause employers to lose tremendous power when it comes to the type of employees they hire.

Author’s note: From a business owner’s standpoint, would you want to hire an accountant without knowing if they did not have a history of money laundering or fraud? What if you were running an electronics warehouse? Wouldn’t you want to know if they had committed theft before? 

Larger employers will find out some of this information, so it’s the smaller employers that will be at a disadvantage. Salary history is something employers use in salary negotiation. It’s a key piece of information. This information often helps to reveal an employee’s past performance at a position. Most employers want to know as much as they can about an employee before they hire them. After all, it’s the business owners that are the ones taking the risk when hiring a new employee.

Editor’s note: California lawmakers just don’t have a clue. They apparently believe that all employees are interchangeable, and the bad things in their past will never happen again.  Previous salary not relevant?  For sales professionals, that is their ONLY qualification. Hiring an employee, especially in a small company is a bit like marrying someone you don’t know. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time you are not compatible rather than have to go through an expensive divorce later?

A few other examples perhaps. If you are a childcare center wouldn’t you like to know if your potential employee was accused of pedophilia? If you are charity, would you hire an embezzler? If you are hiring a C-level director of your company would you want to hire someone whose best salary was only $30K? Would you want someone convicted of taking bribes as a police officer or parole officer? 


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