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San Francisco bans employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal history

In August, employers in San Francisco will be forbidden to ask prospective employees about much of their criminal history.

The ban is part of the city’s new “Ban the Box” ordinance, which limits individuals in charge of hiring from inquiring about the following during the early stages of the application process:

  • An arrest that didn’t lead to conviction (they can ask about unresolved arrests, i.e., those that are the subject of an active pending criminal investigation or trial);
  • Participation in diversion or deferral of judgment programs;
  • Convictions that have been “judicially dismissed, expunged, voided, invalidated or otherwise rendered inoperative;”
  • Juvenile convictions;
  • Convictions that are more than 7 years old; or
  • Convictions for offenses that are not felonies or misdemeanors, e.g. infractions.

Only after a live interview or a conditional offer can an employer ask the applicant about his or her criminal history. And even if the employer does find that the applicant had a criminal past, the information can only be used if it’s directly related to the job, after considering mitigating factors.

If the employer makes the decision not to hire a job seeker because of relevant criminal wrongdoings, they must give the applicant advance notice and allow them to send a response in defense of their actions.

The city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement will also be creating a notice detailing this information and will mandate employers to show it to job seekers.

When the ordinance first goes into effect near the end of this upcoming summer, the OLSE will only issue warnings and notices asking employers to correct their behavior. However, beginning in August of 2015, first time offenders will receive a warning, second time offenders will be subject to a $50 penalty, and each additional violation will result in a $100 penalty.

The “Ban the Box” ordinance also places similar restrictions on housing providers and prospective renters.

According to the authors of the mandate, limiting an employer’s ability to make hiring decisions based on an individual’s criminal background will help reintegrate residents who have a checkered history back into mainstream society.

Businesses in San Francisco also must also comply with one of the nation’s highest minimum wages, a paid sick leave ordinance, a Family Friendly Workplace rule, commuter benefits requirements, and minimums on per-employee spending for health care.

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