The California state government has been reminding businesses across the state that it is illegal to discriminate against job applicants because of they have committed felonies or misdemeanors in the past. Authorities in Sacramento have also taken steps to make sure businesses do not use COVID-related restrictions to deny entry to customers they do not want based on race or other factors.
So far, the state has sent more than 500 notices to businesses informing them that they have violated protections put in place to protect people seeking work.
“The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a new effort to identify and correct violations of the Fair Chance Act, a pioneering state law that seeks to reduce barriers to employment for individuals with criminal histories,” a statement the DFEH released last week reads.
The Fair Chance act, which took effect on January 1, 2018, was written to increase access to employment for Californians with criminal histories in an effort to reduce recidivism, among other goals. Employers with five or more employees are prohibited from asking a job candidate about conviction history during the hiring process or when advertising a vacancy.
The DFEH says it is implementing new technologies to conduct mass searches of online job applications that include unlawful statements. For example, some businesses explicitly state in hiring advertisements that they would not consider applicants with criminal records.
“Using technology to proactively find violations of the state’s anti-discrimination laws is a powerful strategy for our department to protect Californians’ civil rights,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “DFEH is committed to preventing employment discrimination through innovative enforcement actions and by providing clear guidance to employers.”
DFEH also released a toolkit to aid employers in adhering to the Fair Chance Act guidelines. The toolkit includes sample forms and guides that employers can use to follow required procedures; a suggested statement that employers can add to job advertisements and applications to let applicants know that they will consider individuals with criminal histories; answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Fair Chance Act and an informational video that explains the Fair Chance Act.
In addition, DFEH plans to release an interactive training and an online app in 2022.
The DFEH also released guidelines for businesses that will be implementing COVID-19 related entry restrictions to protect against discrimination based on race, sex, religious background and nationality.
While businesses have been encouraged to stay vigilant with mask mandates and vaccination verification for entry, the DFEH says it has also found it necessary to preemptively address refusal of entry that could be racially motivated masked as a COVID precaution.
“As Californians navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has provided guidance to protect civil rights and mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission in employment, housing, healthcare, and, in our guidance released today, businesses open to the public,” said Kish. “We can and must uphold civil rights while simultaneously disrupting the spread of COVID-19.”
DFEH encourages individuals to report job advertisements in violation of the Fair Chance Act or other instances of discrimination.
DFEH is also encouraging the public to report housing ads that include discriminatory language that exclude certain racial groups, immigrants, people with felonies, applicants with Section 8 or HUD vouchers; etc.
Visit the DFEH website to file complaints.