New Employment Background Screening Legislation for 2017
“Ban-the-box” measures, which generally prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s criminal history (including performing background checks) until later in the hiring process, and impose significant compliance requirements, will soon be the norm rather than an exception. The city of Los Angeles, with its new Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring ordinance, is just the latest to join the fast growing list of localities (Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia – MO, District of Columbia, Montgomery County – MD, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Prince George’s County – MD, Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle) and nine states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont (effective July 1, 2017)) that have enacted similar laws for private employers.
Juvenile criminal record checks
Effective January 1, 2017, AB 1843 amends Section 432.7 of the Labor Code to prohibit California employers from inquiring about and considering information regarding “an arrest, detention, process, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition” that occurred while the candidate was subject to the process and jurisdiction of a juvenile court. Certain employment situations are exempted from these requirements, such as a prohibition by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.
Criminal background checks for transportation network companies
Effective January 1, 2017, under California’s AB 1289, a transportation network company (“TNC”) such as Uber, is required to perform criminal background checks on all drivers. The bill also prohibits a TNC from contracting with a driver who is registered on the DOJ’s national sex offender website or has been convicted of specified felonies, or misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol within the past seven years.
Credit check restrictions
The District of Columbia is the latest jurisdiction to pass a law that prohibits private employers, with certain exceptions, from conducting credit checks on job applicants. The Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act, which amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to include credit information as a protected trait will take effect following approval by Mayor Bowser and other enactment actions. Similar to the laws already in effect in ten states for private employers (California – AB 22; Colorado – The Employment Opportunity Act; Connecticut – SB 361; Hawaii – HB 31 SD1; Illinois – HB 4658; Maryland – HB 87; Nevada – SB 127; Oregon – SB 1045; Vermont – Act No. 154 (S. 95); Washington – RCW 19.182 and RCW 19.182.020) and at least two cities (New York City – Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act and Philadelphia – Bill No. 160072), it restricts checking an applicant’s credit history except in circumstances where a credit screen is justified by the position’s responsibilities or is required by law.
Wage history inquiries
Pay equity initiatives include California’s AB 1676, which effective January 1, 2017, prohibits employers from using a candidate’s prior salary as the sole basis to justify a pay disparity. California, however, has decided not to follow the Massachusetts provisions (described below) of banning inquiries regarding a candidate’s wage history.
Massachusetts was the first jurisdiction to pass a law that prevents employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. The commonwealth’s Pay Equity Act goes into effect July 1, 2018, and in addition to equal pay requirements, it makes it illegal, among other things, to: (1) require that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about his or her wages, or any other employee’s wages; (2) screen job applicants based on their wages; (3) request or require a candidate to disclose prior wages or salary history; or (4) seek the salary history from a current or former employer, unless he/she provides express written consent, and an offer of employment, including proposed compensation, has been extended.
Effective May 23, 2017, the city of Philadelphia with its Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination will make it unlawful for employers to inquire about a candidate’s wage history during the hiring process, unless a federal, state, or local law specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage information.
Drug testing – marijuana
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS), 31 states/jurisdictions (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) have public medical marijuana and cannabis programs, while several states (Alaska – Ballot Measure No. 2; California – Proposition 64; Colorado – Amendment 64; District of Columbia – Initiative 71; Maine – Question 1; Massachusetts – Question 4; Nevada – Question 2; Oregon – Measure 91; and Washington Initiative 502) have passed laws allowing for the recreational use of marijuana by adults. Since the legal landscape for marijuana use is changing rapidly, employers should review and update their substance abuse policies, including drug-testing. Notably, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Work authorization verification
California’s SB 1001 is a revival of the 2015 AB 1065, which effective January 1, 2017, makes it unlawful for employers to:
- Request additional or different documents than those required under federal law to verify that an individual is not an unauthorized immigrant
- Refuse to accept documents provided by the applicant that reasonably appear to be genuine
- Refuse to honor documents or work authorization based on specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work
- Attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify a candidate’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.
Effective January 1, 2017, Tennessee’s SB 1965 requires that companies with 50 or more employees use the federal E-Verify program to confirm new employees’ work authorization.
As a reminder, starting January 22, 2017, all employers must use the new Form I-9, which is dated November 14, 2016 (the edition date is on the bottom of the form). Employers that fail to use the new form may be subject to civil penalties.