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What protections does California’s Fair Chance Act offer workers?

A person’s mistakes shouldn’t have to follow them for the rest of their life. That includes a criminal conviction.

People who have served their time or paid whatever penalties they were given and are now law-abiding Californians should have the right to work and support themselves and their families. They should be judged by prospective employers only on their qualifications for the job.

That was the reasoning behind California’s Fair Chance Act, which took effect at the beginning of 2018. Widely referred to as the “Ban the Box” law, the Fair Chance Act made it illegal under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act for employers (with some exceptions) to ask a job applicant whether they have a criminal record.

What can’t employers ask applicants?

In addition to questions about criminal convictions, the Fair Chance Act makes it illegal in most cases for employers to ask about or consider an applicant’s:

  • Arrests that didn’t result in a conviction
  • Participation in a diversion program (even pre- or posttrial)
  • Dismissed, expunged or sealed convictions

Employers can legally conduct a background check that includes a person’s criminal history once they’ve made an official job offer to someone. However, they can’t legally rescind that offer based on a person’s criminal history.

What rights do you have if a job offer is rescinded because of a criminal record?

If an employer does rescind their offer, they have to inform the applicant that they have the right to lodge a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

Of course, employers may try to get around this by finding another reason to take back a job offer. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to take action if you believe that you were discriminated against because of your criminal record. It’s wise to know what your rights are and what options you have under California law.

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