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SB 731: Limits on Employer Background Checks

This year we have seen California’s trend to place more stringent requirements and expectations on employers with less information on potential employees to ensure your company makes good hiring decisions.

One of those new requirements is SB 731 related to background checks and one of the last bills in this legislative session to be signed by Governor Newsom.  According to the bill’s author, State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, it is believed that 75% of formerly incarcerated individuals are still unemployed a year after their release. In order to avoid applicants from gaining employment because of a conviction discovered through the use of background checks, SB-731 effectively seals their records for purposes of employment.

Remember, a few years ago employers were barred from asking candidates about whether they had been convicted of a crime on job applications or running background checks until there was an offer of employment (and if you look at your job application and it asks “Have you been convicted of a crime” the time to redo your application is overdue!)?  Now California has further limited a potential employer’s ability to learn about an applicant’s past as far as criminal convictions go.

Effective July 1, 2023, applicants with felony convictions will remain unknown to prospective employers doing background checks if the conviction is related to: (a)conviction that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2005 and all terms of incarceration, probation, parole have been completed and 4 years have passed with no new felony offense; (b) possession of controlled substances that is more than 5 years in denying a teaching credential; (c)  a felony conviction as long as it is not a crime requiring sex offender registrations.

There of course are exceptions (aren’t there always) for serious or violent crimes for instance, but what is an employer to do? 

In a world that is “online” there is nothing illegal about looking up a potential applicant online, perusing their social media to find out more about them.  Even so, you must be very careful in using online resources when doing your own sleuthing. 

For more information on what employers can do when hiring individuals, whether your employment application is California compliant or for learning the rules if you do background checks to ensure you do not expose your company to legal claims, contact the Employer Lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt.

This material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute legal advice.  For information on your particular circumstances, please contact  Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500 for legal assistance near you. (photo credit: depositphotos.com).


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