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New Jersey’s new ban-the-box law goes into effect March 1, 2015

Signed into law last month, The Opportunity to Compete Act will effect March 1, 2015, preventing many private employers in New Jersey from asking job candidates about their criminal history on the initial job application. In “banning the box” for private employers, New Jersey joins the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and cities of Philadelphia (PA), Newark (NJ), Buffalo (NY), Seattle (WA), San Francisco (CA), Baltimore (MD), and Rochester (NY)) in postponing inquiries about criminal record information until later in the hiring process, and imposing other requirements on the use of such records in employment decisions.

Reminder: San Francisco’s tough ordinance that restricts asking about and using criminal records in employment and housing decisions starts August 13, 2014

Effective August 13, 2014, the Fair Chance Ordinance (the “FCO”) (see also the FCO FAQs) requires covered employers, contractors, and housing providers to review an individual’s qualifications before inquiring about his/her criminal history and follow strict rules for using the information.

The FCO applies to private employers that are located or doing business in the city and county of San Francisco, and employ 20 or more persons worldwide. This 20-person threshold includes owner(s), management, and supervisory personnel. The FCO covers positions (including contractor and other status) located within San Francisco, regardless of where the employer is located, as long as the position is “in whole, or in substantial part, within the city.” San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (the “OLSE”) interprets “in substantial part” to mean an average of eight hours of work performed per week in San Francisco.

Along with banning inquiries about a criminal history or pending charges on the job application or during the first live interview, the FCO prohibits asking about six categories of criminal record information altogether, and mandates significant measures for individualized assessment, including considering only “directly-related convictions that have a direct and specific negative bearing on the

[applicant’s] ability to perform the duties or responsibilities necessarily related to the position,” the time elapsed since the conviction, evidence of inaccuracy, evidence of rehabilitation and/or other mitigating factors.

An aspect of the ordinance that is especially noteworthy is that employers are prohibited from inquiring about or considering convictions that are more than seven years old, with “the date of conviction being the date of sentencing.” Under California law, there already is a seven-year limitation on such records, but the look-back period starts from the date that a person is released from custody. Also of note is that before taking any adverse action based on a criminal record, the ordinance requires that the employer wait seven days (from the date of the potential adverse action notice) before taking such action. If during the seven-day waiting period the individual gives the employer notice, orally or in writing, of evidence of an inaccuracy, rehabilitation, or any other mitigating factor, the employer must delay the adverse action for a “reasonable” time to reconsider the action.

Employers must also ensure that criminal background inquiries later in the process comply with the notice guidelines published by the OLSE, as well as with the already existing background check disclosure/authorization requirements under California’s ICRAA and the FCRA. Highlighted below are the ordinance’s more significant notice requirements:

  • Covered employers must post, in a conspicuous place at every workplace, including a temporary site, or other location in San Francisco under the employer’s control where applicants or employees visit, a notice of rights provided by the OLSE. The notice must be posted in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and any other language spoken by 5% or more of the employees in the workplace, job site, or other location. (Translations of the notice in Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog are available on the OLSE website.)
  • Employers must state in all job solicitations or advertisements that are reasonably likely to reach potential applicants seeking employment in San Francisco that the employer will consider qualified individuals with a criminal history.
  • Employers mustsendthe notice toeachlaborunionorrepresentative withwhomtheemployerhasacollectivebargainingagreementorotheragreementthatisapplicabletoemployeesinSanFrancisco.
  • Prior to any criminal history inquiry, including from procuring or conducting a background check, an employer must provide this notice to an applicant or employee when he/she is given the required FCRA/ICRAA disclosure and authorization form to sign.

Cities of Rochester, NY and Baltimore, MD join fast growing list of ban-the-box jurisdictions

Effective November 18, 2014, the City of Rochester, New York ordinance no. 2014-0155 will prohibit employers from requiring applicants to disclose any criminal conviction information during the application process. The employer may inquire about a criminal conviction only after the initial interview. And if the employer does not conduct an interview, it must inform the applicant whether a criminal background check will be performed, before employment is to begin. Additionally, it must wait until after a conditional job offer has been extended before conducting the criminal check or otherwise inquiring into the applicant’s criminal history. The ordinance applies to any position where the primary place of work is located within Rochester, and to any city employees (except fire or police) or vendors regardless of location. Excluded from the ordinance are criminal record inquiries that are authorized by another applicable law.

Baltimore’s Fair Criminal-Record Screening Practices ordinance, which becomes effective August 13, 2014, similarly bans private employers from inquiring about or conducting criminal checks on applicants until a conditional offer has been extended. The ordinance applies to any employer with 10 or more employees within the city of Baltimore, but excludes entities serving minors or vulnerable adults. Unlike some other ban-the-box laws, the Baltimore ordinance does not require that employers provide additional notices to applicants other than those required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

For more information on ban-the-box legislation,see the recently published briefing paper by the National Employment Law Project titled Statewide Ban the Box–Reducing Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records.

Right to be forgotten: sweeping changes are coming

According to a June 26, 2014 article in The Wall Street Journal, GOOGL in Your Value Your Change Short position Google, Inc., started removing results from its search engine under Europe’s new “right to be forgotten,” implementing a landmark ruling by the European Union’s top court that gives individuals the right to request removal of Internet search results  for their own names.

Not to be outdone when it comes to privacy legislation, California Senate recently approved SB 1348 requiring online data brokers who sell consumer information to provide an opt-out mechanism and consumer access to the data.  The bill, which now moves to the State Assembly for consideration, gives California consumers the right to review the information maintained by a data broker and request that it be permanently removed, within 10 days. Once removed, the information cannot be reposted or sold to a third-party. Notably, the bill attempts to include consumer reporting agencies in the category of data brokers.

Although there is no actual movement on the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) urges that Congress consider enacting legislation to make data broker practices more visible to consumers and allow greater control over the immense amounts of personal information that is collected about them and shared by data brokers. In its study presented in a report issued May 27, 2014, the FTC found that data brokers operate with a fundamental lack of transparency.

Proposed bill would establish standards for national data security

The bill, introduced in the Senate on January 15, 2014 and cited as the Data Security Act of 2014, would require entities such as financial institutions, retailers, and federal agencies to better safeguard sensitive information, investigate security breaches, and notify consumers when there is a substantial risk of identity theft or account fraud. The new requirements would apply to businesses that take credit or debit card information, data brokers that compile private information, and government agencies that possess nonpublic personal information.

Proposed federal bill bans credit checks in employment decisions

Introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) on December 17, 2013, the “Equal Employment for All Act” (S. 1837), would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to prohibit employers from requiring or suggesting that applicants disclose their credit history, from procuring a consumer or investigative report, and from disqualifying employees based on a poor credit rating, or information on a consumer’s creditworthiness, standing or capacity. Positions that require a national security clearance or “when otherwise required by law” are exempt from the prohibition. Ten states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) already have enacted legislation that limits the use of credit reports for employment purposes.

New law bans California employers from asking about dismissed criminal records

Effective January 1, 2014, SB 530, will ban most California employers from asking employees or applicants about arrests that did not result in conviction (except for arrests for which the individual is still awaiting trial) or about participation in a pretrial or post trial diversion program. Generally, the new law prohibits most employers from asking applicants to disclose, or use as a factor in employment decisions, any information concerning a conviction that has been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed.

Stricter Volcker Rule final; banking entities have until July 21, 2015 to conform

On December 10, 2013, five federal agencies approved the regulation known as the Volker Rule which introduces a variety of guidelines to limit risk-taking by banks with federally insured deposits. The Federal Reserve Board announced that banking entities covered by section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will be required to fully conform their activities and investments by July 21, 2015. The compliance requirements will vary based on the size of the entity and the scope of activities conducted.

The rule prohibits insured depository institutions and any company affiliated with an insured depository institution from engaging in short-term proprietary trading of certain securities, derivatives, and other financial instruments for the firm’s own account, subject to certain exemptions, including market making and risk-mitigating hedging. It also imposes limits on banking entities’ investments in, and other relationships with, hedge funds and private equity funds.

Reminder to New Jersey employers to provide required CEPA notice

New Jersey employers with 10 or more employees are reminded of their annual obligation to provide to their employees, in both English and in Spanish, the required notice under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (the “CEPA”). The notice may be distributed in hard copy or electronic format, but having only a poster or a policy in a handbook does not fulfill an employer’s notice obligation under the CEPA.

Enacted in 1986, this anti-retaliation statute is known as New Jersey’s Whistleblower’s Act. The goal of the CEPA is to encourage whistleblowers to report wrongdoing to their employers without fear of reprisals. Overall, CEPA provides a broader range of protections and remedies than other similar statutes, such as the federal False Claims Act.

New law prohibits North Carolina employers from asking about expunged records

Effective December 1, 2013, employers in North Carolina will not be able to ask job applicants about arrests, criminal charges, or convictions that have been expunge SB 91 prohibits inquiries into expunged matters both on applications and during interviews, and was enacted to clear the public record of any arrest, criminal charge, or conviction that was expunged so that the subject is legally entitled to withhold all information about it from potential employers and others. Notably, employers will still be allowed to ask about arrests, criminal charges, or convictions that have not been expunged and can be found in public records.

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