What this is about:
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (the “DFEH”) recently enacted regulations (“Regs”) for California employers that impose new requirements when considering criminal history information in employment decisions.
July 1, 2017
What this means:
Substantially based on the enforcement guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2012, the Regs prohibit employers from using a candidate’s criminal history in personnel decisions, if such information will have an adverse impact on individuals in a legally protected class. The Regs also expand the types of records that California employers are already prohibited from considering. Namely, any non-felony conviction for possession of marijuana that is older than two years is now off-limits.
If an employer obtains conviction information from a source other than the candidate — consumer report or internally performed search — the employer must first notify the candidate that he/she has been screened out because of a conviction before taking any adverse action. This notice requirement differs from that of the Fair Credit Report Act (the “FCRA”), which mandates notices only if the employer takes adverse action based on information contained in a third-party report. Ban-the-box city ordinances, such as those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, have yet different requirements, providing that a notice may be required if the adverse action is based on criminal history information from any source, including disclosure by the candidate.
The Regs also mandate that the candidate is given a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that the exclusion should not be applied due to his/her particular circumstances, and consideration whether any additional information provided by the candidate or otherwise obtained by the employer warrants an exception.
According to the Regs, the candidate bears the initial burden of proof for establishing that the employer’s background screening policy has an adverse impact on a protected class. If an adverse impact is demonstrated, the burden shifts to the employer to show that its policy is “job-related and consistent with a business necessity,” and based on an individualized assessment, considering factors such as:
- the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
- the time passed since the offense was committed and/or completion of the sentence
- the nature of the job sought or held
Employers in California should review their policies on the use of criminal history information in employment decisions and modify any practices to ensure compliance with the new Regs, the FCRA, analogous state law, and applicable local ban-the-box ordinances.