People who seek jobs with state or local government agencies in California will not be asked on their initial applications whether they have been convicted of a crime, under legislation signed yesterday by Gov. Jerry Brown, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The law, effective in July, will prohibit most government employers from requiring disclosure of past convictions on initial applications, information that often ends any realistic job prospects. Supporters promoted the bill as offering a second chance to ex-offenders.
Employers will be allowed to ask about criminal records, or run a background check, after determining that an applicant meets the minimum job qualifications. The restrictions will not apply to police, schoolteachers or other government jobs working with children, the elderly or the disabled, in which applicants can be asked about criminal convictions. “A mistake from your past shouldn’t be a life sentence to joblessness,” said attorney Michelle Rodriguez the National Employment Law Project in Oakland, the bill’s sponsor. Other supporters included civil rights groups, who said criminal record questions have a disproportionate effect on minorities. Eight states have similar laws. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is urging private as well as public employers remove criminal records questions from job applications.