AB 218: Limits Inquiry Into an Applicant’s Criminal Convictions

AB 218 was introduced by Assemblymember Dickinson on February 4, 2013 and was recently amended on April 10, 2013.  As amended, AB 218 would prohibit certain public employers from asking about criminal conviction history until after the agency has determined that the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the job.  Specifically, AB 218 would add section 432.9 to the Labor Code, which states in part:

432.9. (a) A state or local agency shall not ask an applicant for employment to disclose, orally or in writing, information concerning the conviction history of the applicant, including any inquiry about conviction history on any employment application until the agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications, as stated in any notice issued for the position.

Comments:

  1. My assumption is that the intent of the bill is to prevent public employers from automatically rejecting applicants because of a criminal conviction.  However, it is unclear what effect this bill will actually have because it does not prohibit the consideration of a conviction in the final hiring decision.
  2. This bill is consistent with the “ban the box” movement sponsored by the National Employment Law Project.  The goal is to provide applicants a better chance of being evaluated based on qualifications by removing the question on most job applications about an individual’s conviction history.
  3. In June 2010, the State Personnel Board removed questions about convictions on the standard state application.  Now, applicants applying for a classification to which a criminal record is pertinent must complete a separate supplemental questionnaire.
  4. It should be noted that this bill only applies to the state and local entities (city, counties, special districts) and not other private or public sector employers.  Assemblymember Dickinson is from the Sacramento area, so his focus is probably on state employees.  Given the SPB’s unilateral action in June 2010, I’m curious as to what prompted Assemblymember Dickinson to sponsor this bill now.
  5. While I’m generally supportive of the goals of this bill—to ensure that people are judged on qualifications—I’m not entirely convinced this bill is necessary.  So I’m looking forward to the legislative analysis…
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