San Francisco Proposes Ordinance to Ban Most Private Employers from Asking about Criminal Records on Job Applications

Legislation proposed by members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – Ordinance No. 131192 – would expand existing “Ban the Box” rules that prevent city agencies from asking applicants about criminal convictions on job applications to include most private employers in the city, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. Ordinance No. 131192 is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/file/San-Francisco-Board-of-Supervisors_Ordinance-131192.pdf.

Ordinance 131192 – introduced by Supervisors Jane Kim (District 6) and Malia Cohen (District 10) – would amending the Police Code to require employers and housing providers to limit the use of criminal history information, and follow certain procedures and restrictions when inquiring about and using conviction history information to make decisions about employment and tenancy in San Francisco.

The ordinance would also amend the Administrative Code to require City contractors and subcontractors to adhere to the same limits, procedures, and restrictions when making decisions regarding employment of persons for work on City contracts and subcontracts. The legislation has been assigned under 30 Day Rule to the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee.

The Chronicle reports San Francisco has banned most city agencies from asking about criminal convictions since 2006. The newly proposed “Ban the Box” ordinance would:

  • Include “most private employers, publicly funded housing providers, and city contractors.”
  • Not include jobs where criminal histories are relevant such as law enforcement.
  • Not completely bar private employers from asking about criminal records but allow them to “reserve that question for later in the hiring process.”
  • Only apply to businesses with 20 or more employees.
  • Allow businesses “to conduct background checks after a live interview instead of after a conditional offer of employment.”
  • Not allow job applicants to sue.

As reported previously on the ESR News blog in October 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) to prohibit requesting criminal record information on initial employment applications for local and state government jobs. More information about AB 218 – which makes exceptions for positions such as law enforcement and working with children, the elderly, or disabled – is available at http://openstates.org/ca/bills/20132014/AB218/.

According to a November 2013 National Employment Law Project (NELP) Briefing Paper ‘Statewide Ban the Box: Reducing Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records,’ ten states have adopted some form of “Ban the Box” legislation: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. The Briefing Paper from NELP is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/3c0ae798a3c30d354e_jgm6beq1q.pdf.

A September 2013 “Ban the Box” Resource Guide from NELP found more than 50 major U.S. cities have adopted hiring policies to remove unfair barriers to applicants with criminal records. The cities include: Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC. The Resource Guide is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/ce31d03afc257a8131_gpm6bfwwb.pdf.

A 2011 NELP study titled ‘65 Million Need Not Apply’ found that more than one in four adults in the United States had criminal records. The study estimated that 64.6 million people – representing 27.8 percent of the U.S. adult population – had a criminal record for either an arrest or a conviction on file with states. The study from NELP, a non-profit organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers, is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/e9231d3aee1d058c9e_55im6wopc.pdf.

“We are suggesting to private employers that they consider a ‘Ban the Box’ approach,” says Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a background check firm located in the San Francisco Bay area. “Asking about criminal records early in the hiring process serves as a ‘knock-out punch’ before candidates have a chance to be considered on their qualifications and unnecessarily exposes employers to allegations they are automatically tossing out applications with a criminal record.”

Rosen – author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ – suggests employers “are better served using good hiring techniques based upon neutral factors to whittle down the applicant pool.” When employers finally do ask applicants about any past criminal records, Rosen says “they need to make an effort to not ask a broadly worded question that may encompass criminal records that are either too old or irrelevant for the job, since that can have the impact of imposing a lifetime ban on an applicant.”

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’ – is a nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For more information about “Ban the Box” and background checks, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call Toll Free 888.999.4474, or email sales@esrcheck.com.

News Source: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Push-to-ban-crime-box-on-job-applications-expands-5049663.php

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