California's Fair Chance Hiring Law


Did you know that California is now a fair chance hiring state? What does that mean for your business? Fair chance hiring means that people with criminal background are given a fair chance at applying for jobs without their criminal background automatically disqualifying them.

What You Need to Know about the Law

The Fair Chance Act (AB 1008) went into effect on January 1, 2018, and does the following:

  • California employers with more than five employees can no longer ask about conviction history before making a conditional job offer.

  • Job applications cannot include a question about criminal convictions.

  • Employers can ask about conviction history or run a criminal background check after a conditional offer has been made.

  • If a background check turns up convictions, the employer must consider the nature and gravity of the crime(s), how they relate to the job and how much time has passed since conviction. If an employer decides to rescind the offer, they must tell the applicant in writing, provide a copy of the conviction history used to make the decision and allow the applicant five days to respond. The employer must then review the response and issue a final decision via writing.

  • Employers cannot make employment decisions based on arrests that were not followed by conviction; participation in pretrial or post-trial diversion programs; or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged or statutorily eradicated.

  • There are some exceptions to this law, including certain positions at healthcare facilities, farm labor contractors and positions with criminal justice agencies. There are also exceptions where an employer is required by another law to conduct a background check and restrict employment due to criminal history.

Why Support Fair Chance Hiring?

Failure to follow this law may result in complaints to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Check your job application and review your hiring process to make sure you are complying with this law.

Aside from the legal requirement, being a fair-chance-hiring employer is good for business. Nearly one-third of adults in the US have some kind of criminal record. Many of these people are ready to work and know the value of landing a good job. A job can be a big part of successful reentry and living a healthy and productive life. Not only does a job provide income to pay basic expenses, it also provides people with a sense of purpose. These are things that reduce recidivism and keep people from going back to jail or prison. 

Employers who hire the formerly incarcerated may qualify for a tax credit under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) as well as a free federal bonding program. To learn more, visit our page on WOTC and federal bonding.

Do you want more information on fair chance hiring, or are you an employer who has questions about hiring a formerly incarcerated person? We are here to help. Email us or fill out the contact form on our Get Involved page, and we will get in touch with you to answer your questions. We also have the information in this blog post available as a flyer that we can send to you.