By Angela Connell
At the end of April 2023, A California bill under consideration in the state senate would ban most private employers from seeking a background check into a job candidate’s conviction history. If enacted, the Fair Chance Act of 2023 (SB 809) would allow employers to seek a job applicant’s conviction history report only in three circumstances:
federal or state law or federal regulation requires an employer to obtain the information.
federal or state law prohibits an individual with a particular conviction history from holding the position sought, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged, sealed, or dismissed.
federal or state law prohibits an applicant with that conviction from being hired.
In addition, SB 809 would prohibit employers from rejecting an applicant because of their conviction history without first conducting an individualized assessment as to whether their conviction history has a “direct and adverse” relationship to the job. The bill would also expand the number of employment practices deemed unlawful, including ending an interview, rejecting an application, or otherwise terminating the application process based on conviction history information the applicant provides or the employer learns from another source. The passing of this law would finally create equitable hiring for all individuals impacted by the justice system!
Fair chance laws seek to reduce the barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals encounter trying to get a job. When these barriers are reduced and individuals with past conviction records can find employment, both states and businesses benefit, the California bill explains. Time and time again, experts have found that California loses $20 billion in state gross domestic product each year due to the many barriers that formerly incarcerated people with felony records must face being fully employed, the bill notes. Yet, employees with conviction histories have higher retention rates, lower turnover, and higher loyalty than the general population, the bill says. At https://www.human-works.org/, we know that Obstacles are Opportunities, and that second-chance hiring lets employers tap into a new talent pool and directly improve diversity and inclusion within the organization. Obtaining employment is, as noted earlier, challenging for those involved in the correctional system due to the relatively low levels of educational attainment and the presence of a felony conviction. Having a job, however, has been shown to reduce recidivism, and individuals are less likely to commit crimes when they have stable, full-time employment. As we close out Second Chance Month, we look to the Fair Chance Act of 2023 as a milestone step into a world where barriers to employment disappear. Human Works Foundation, alongside our community partners, believes that increasing access to quality academic education and occupational skills-based training that builds a skill base to meet the needs of the current labor market will significantly increase access to sustainable post-incarcerated employment opportunities.