Fair Chance Act Basics

Fair Chance Act Basics

The Fair Chance Act (also known as California’s Ban the Box law) is a California law that restricts when and how employers can inquire about and consider a job applicant’s criminal history.

A Brief History

2017

The Fair Chance Act Was Signed Into Law

Passed as Assembly Bill 1008, the Fair Chance Act was enacted to  allow California job applicants to be judged based on their qualifications, helping to reduce the barriers to employment and recidivism for individuals who have a criminal record.

2018

The Fair Chance Act Went Into Effect

On January 1, the Fair Chance Act went into effect providing Californians new rights when applying for jobs. It is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Cal. Gov. Code § 12952).

Who Must Comply

Most government and private employers (except those with fewer than five employees) must comply.

Information Covered

The Fair Chance Act covers all information about a job applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer is made. At that point, most of an applicant's criminal history may be considered, with the exception of arrests that were not followed by a conviction, participation in pretrial or posttrial diversion programs or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged or statutorily eradicated.

Some positions require criminal background checks and are not covered by the Fair Chance Act.

Individuals' Rights

Before a Conditional Job Offer is Made

Applicants have the right to

  • apply and interview for most jobs without being asked about their criminal history
  • be considered for most positions based on their qualifications not criminal history until after they receive a conditional job offer

After a Conditional Job Offer is Made

Before an employer can rescind a conditional job offer based on criminal history, applicants have the right to

  • receive an individualized assessment that justifies denying them the position
  • receive written notice from the employer of a preliminary decision to rescind the offer
  • provide additional information about their criminal history to the employer
  • receive written notice of a final decision to rescind the offer
  • receive notice about their right to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

Even after making a conditional offer, employers are generally prohibited from asking about or considering information about arrests where there was no conviction, participation in pretrial or posttrial diversion programs, or convictions that were sealed, dismissed, expunged or statutorily eradicated.

Within Three Years of an Employer's Violation of the Fair Chance Act

Applicants have the right to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing if they believe their rights have been violated.

Enforcement

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing enforces the Fair Chance Act and can order employers in violation to change their practices and to compensate applicants.