The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 12, 2013
Lawmakers OK bill banning felony question on public job apps

130912-Job-fair-pge.jpgThe state Senate today approved a bill that converts the state's job application policy regarding felony conviction questions into a law that applies to local government agencies.

Assembly Bill 218, authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto and after 40-seat upper chamber passed it with the minimum 21 votes.

The bill is part of a growing movement called "ban the box" that seeks to eliminate the check-box criminal background question commonly found on sector job applications.

In 2010,l the state moved that question and another regarding domestic abuse convictions from its standard job application to a supplemental form. Applicants fill out the supplemental form when it's appropriate for the work they're seeking.

Like state policy, the Dickinson measure doesn't prohibit asking any public job applicant whether they have a felony record. But agencies can't use that information to screen applicants up front. Instead, employers must determine a prospective hire's qualifications first.

Dickinson has framed his bill as a way to cut down recidivism, because studies show that released convicts are less likely to reoffend if they're employed.

The Oakland-based National Employment Law Project, which has been a key ban-the-box proponent, hailed the measure as a fair shake for ex-convicts.

"A mistake from the past shouldn't be a life sentence to joblessness," Michelle Rodriguez, the organization's staff attorney said in a press statement. "This bill gives hope to thousands of Californians who are ready to work but are shut out from employment because they're automatically screened out from the start."

PHOTO: A line of people wait to talk with PG&E representatives during a Sacramento job fare in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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