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"Fair Chance" Legislation Changes Background Check Rules in San Francisco

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Fair Chance Ordinance, which limits when and to what extent employers can inquire into an applicant or employee’s criminal history

In February, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Fair Chance Ordinance, which limits when and to what extent employers can inquire into an applicant or employee’s criminal history. The ordinance is designed to delay when an employer can inquire about criminal history, but not banning it entirely: enterprises can inquire into individuals’ criminal histories after the employer has determined that the individual meets the requirements for the position. The ordinance applies to businesses in San Francisco with 20 or more employees.

Employers cannot inquire into or run background checks involving criminal history until after the first live interview (including telephone or videoconference) or a conditional offer of employment. Employers cannot seek criminal conviction information on job applicants.

This ordinance mirrors many established requirements under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act and Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act, and it also adopts much of the background check guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, according to Fenwick & West LLP.

The “Ban the Box” measure to remove questions regarding criminal convictions on job applications has been enacted in about 10 states and 60 municipalities across the country by the time of publication.

The San Francisco ordinance is effective August 2014

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