The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 5, 2013
When should government ask job seekers about criminal past?

job-seekers.jpgOur State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at government hiring policies in California and laws in other states that de-emphasize asking whether job applicants have criminal histories.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's Assembly Bill 218 would make California's policy a law with a few more restrictions on employers and apply it to all state and local governments. (Dickinson's bill makes some exceptions for law enforcement officers and the like, although some opponents say those exceptions need to be braodend and better defined.)

The National Employment Law Project -- which describes itself as partnering with "grassroots groups and national organizations, worker centers and unions, policymakers and think tanks" to promote middle-class jobs -- tracks state and local governments that aren't giving as much prominence as they once did to criminal history questions. Click here to view the group's thoroughly linked list of entities that "ban the box," a phrase referring to the check-box lines that many job applications use to ask about criminal history.

The column also refers to two lawsuits that the Obama administration filed against private-sector employers that allegedly screened applicants and fired employees using criminal background checks. Here's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's June press release about those two cases and why the commission says their practice discriminated against minorities.

PHOTO: Job seekers crowd around a table to get information on available jobs during the California Job Journal HIREvent on Feb. 10, 2009, in San Francisco. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

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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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