With the enactment of an updated ban-the-box statute (the Fair Chance Act) on January 1, 2018, employers in California may need a refresher on how to take adverse action based on the criminal record of an applicant.
For those businesses located in Los Angeles, the requirements take on an additional level of complication due to slight differences in the city’s ordinance.
Pursuant to California law, employers with five or more employees must wait until after a conditional offer of employment has been made to ask any questions about a criminal history. This means inquiries about convictions, running a background check or other efforts to find out about an applicant’s criminal past.
As an aside, several types of criminal records are not allowed to be used by employers in the hiring process (including juvenile records, diversions and deferrals, non-felony marijuana convictions that are more than two years old and arrests that did not lead to a conviction).If the employer decides not to hire the applicant, it must conduct an individualized assessment of the conviction at issue to evaluate whether it has a “direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying the applicant the position.”
The applicant needs to be notified of the potential for adverse action based on the conviction. Such notice must identify the conviction at issue and include a copy of any background check report; the employer must also provide a deadline for the applicant to submit additional information with regard to the conviction (such as rehabilitation efforts or other mitigating circumstances).
Federal law also kicks in. For those employers that intend to rely in whole or in part on a background check report to take adverse action such as rescinding a conditional job offer, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates that applicants be given a pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the report and a notice of rights.
Once the applicant has provided any information and the employer makes a final decision, a second notice is required. This time, the notice should inform the applicant of the final adverse action, explain any procedure in place for the applicant to challenge the decision or request reconsideration and describe the applicant’s right to file a complaint with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If the FCRA has been triggered by the use of a background check report, the employer must also provide the applicant with an adverse action notice that contains FCRA-required text.
While this process may seem onerous, employers that hire workers in Los Angeles face additional requirements under the city’s Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance (FCIHO). The law, which took effect on January 22, 2017, applies to employers with 10 or more workers (defined to include individuals who perform at least two hours of work on average in Los Angeles and are covered by the state’s minimum wage law).
The FCIHO has a narrower definition of a “conditional offer of employment” than that under state law – here, an offer of employment to an applicant “is conditioned only on an assessment of the applicant’s criminal history, if any, and the duties and responsibilities of the employment position.”
Regardless of the source of criminal history, if an employer elects not to hire an applicant, a written assessment that “effectively links the specific aspects of the applicant’s criminal history with risks inherent in the duties of the employment position sought by the applicant” must be performed.
This assessment needs to be provided to the applicant as part of the “fair chance process,” along with any other documentation or information used by the employer as well as a pre-adverse action notice. Again, if a background check report was used, the FCRA requirements apply. The applicant also receives an opportunity to share information the employer should consider before making a final decision, such as evidence of rehabilitation.
After at least five business days, the employer may make a final decision. If the applicant provided additional documentation or information, the employer is obligated to consider it and conduct a written reassessment. If the employer decides to take adverse action against the applicant anyway, the employer must notify the applicant and provide a copy of the reassessment along with the adverse action notice.