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Calif. laws bar employers from asking about applicants' criminal, salary histories

By Ray Downs
Calif. laws bar employers from asking about applicants' criminal, salary histories
California Gov. Jerry Brown (C) signed legislation this month that prohibits employers from asking about job applicants' criminal and salary histories. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 17 (UPI) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this month two pieces of legislation that prohibit employers from asking about a job applicant's criminal and salary histories.

The California Fair Chance Act makes it illegal for an employer with five or more employees to ask about an applicant's criminal past until a job offer is made, and prohibits them from considering arrests that do not result in a conviction.

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Additionally, when a job applicant does have a conviction on record, the law requires employers to "make an individualized assessment of whether the applicant's conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job."

California will become the 10th state to enact "ban the box" legislation when the law goes into effect Jan. 1.

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The law "is one of the strongest fair-chance laws in the nation and certainly the one that benefits the most people," said Beth Avery, staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. "Given that California is home to approximately 1 in 10 of the 70 million people with records in this country, we expect the new law will directly benefit millions of Californians, while also influencing the hiring practices of major employers across the country."

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"We need to expand job opportunities for all Californians, especially those who have served their time and are looking for a fair chance to enter the workforce," said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.

Brown also signed a salary privacy bill that prohibits employers from asking about a job applicant's previous salary and benefit history.

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Both laws have been praised by activists and lawmakers who say people with criminal histories can be unfairly discriminated against while looking for a job -- and women are often paid less due to their past salary history.

The California Legislative Women's Caucus said asking about salary history negatively impacts women due to longstanding wage inequality.

"Women negotiating a salary shouldn't have to wrestle an entire history of wage disparity...Wage inequality that has spanned generations of women in the workforce," said Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, who authored the bill, reported the Orange County Register.

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The law affects online applications that require a salary history box be filled before continuing with the application.

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