fair chance hiring

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.

Annual Report 2017


Dear Friends & Supporters:

This past year was a big year for Pacific Reentry Career Services. 2017 marked our first year serving clients and putting on employer outreach events. We started working with formerly incarcerated job seekers in the spring, and we developed and started distributing our Job Search Guide. We also held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit for employers and service providers in June. This was followed up by a November summit that focused on the specific challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans. We had the opportunity to do several job search workshops in partnership with local groups and organizations that serve the reentry population in Orange County.

In 2018, we plan to continue working directly with formerly incarcerated job seekers and to continue advocating for fair chance hiring. By working with employers and encouraging them to hire this deserving population, we hope to open up more job opportunities for the reentry community as they work to build healthy and productive lives following release from jail and prison. Underlying all of our work is a strong belief in second chances.

As of January 1, 2018, California is now a fair chance hiring state. This means that employers cannot ask about criminal background until a conditional offer has been made. This will create more opportunities for formerly incarcerated people because they will no longer be judged based solely on their answer to the question about criminal background on job applications. Instead, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate that their experience, skills and education make them a good candidate. We are excited that California is leading the charge on giving formerly incarcerated people a fair chance at being considered for employment.

Thank you for being a part of our success in our first year offering programs and services. Pacific Reentry Career Services is currently an all-volunteer organization, so everything we do is a true labor of love. We look forward to continuing to support the Orange County reentry community in 2018!

Click here to download our full annual report.


Stephanie Hammerwold
Executive Director & Co-Founder

Fair Chance Hiring Summit: Focus on Formerly Incarcerated Veterans

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When we started Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals was to be advocates for fair chance hiring so we could help open up job opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. We held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit back in June. Out of conversations at that summit, we realized there was a need for summits that focus on specific populations within the reentry community, which is why our November summit focused on the employment challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans.

Cory Vigil shares his own story of being a formerly incarcerated veteran.

Cory Vigil shares his own story of being a formerly incarcerated veteran.

Stephanie Hammerwold, Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, started things off at the November summit with an overview of fair chance hiring and the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veteran. Hammerwold also mentioned that employers can benefit form the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) when hiring veterans, the formerly incarcerated and other hard-to-place job seekers. Next, Cory Vigil from the Working Wardrobes VetNet program. Vigil shared his own story about being a formerly incarcerated veteran and talked about the value of support services in helping formerly incarcerated veterans rebuild their lives.

Vigil was also part of a panel with Frank Fletcher and Agent Raj Talwar. Fletcher is the Local Veterans Employment Representative at the Santa Ana Cluster of the California Employment Development Department, and Talwar is a Parole Agent Supervisor with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The panel discussed the challenges faced by the formerly incarcerated veterans they work with and also explained why employers benefit when they hire this population. Veterans in general have strong teamwork skills and a good work ethic. When an employer hires a veteran, they are getting someone who is organized and disciplined. Just because a veteran has experienced incarceration, it does not mean that they have lost these abilities. By providing the necessary support services and opening up job opportunities, we help grow this skill set while also giving a formerly incarcerated veteran the chance at a stable income and meaningful work, which are important steps toward reentry success.

After a group discussion about formerly incarcerated veterans and fair chance hiring, Edward Clarke of Need4Bridges left attendees with some inspiring words. Clarke's organization mentors formerly incarcerated people as they rebuild their lives, and he underscored the importance of supporting this community if we are going to help reduce the chance that people will recidivate. This includes providing job opportunities.

Thank you to everyone who attended and to the Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine for hosting our event and to the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) for supporting all our events. We look forward to continuing to provide educational opportunities that raise awareness about fair chance hiring. Watch our blog and subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out about upcoming events.

Thank you to Christopher Reeve Linares for the pictures included with this post.

Stephanie Hammerwold looks on as Edward Clarke (left) and Frank Fletcher (center) listen in to what other attendees are sharing.

Stephanie Hammerwold looks on as Edward Clarke (left) and Frank Fletcher (center) listen in to what other attendees are sharing.

November Fair Chance Hiring Summit


When: Friday, November 17, 8:45-11 a.m.
Where: The Orange County One-Stop Center, 17891 Cartwright Rd. #200, Irvine, CA 92614
Cost: $25 per person, free for veterans and the formerly incarcerated

We are pleased to announce that we will be holding our second Fair Chance Hiring Summit on Friday, November 17. The Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine will once again be hosting our summit at their office. The November summit will focus on the employment challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans and discuss ways that employers can support them in achieving success.

This event is designed for HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners. Attendees will leave with tips on implementing fair chance hiring policies in their workplace and learn about ways to engage with local service providers to provide employment to and support formerly incarcerated veterans in Orange County. A job can do a lot to help a formerly incarcerated veteran rebuild their lives, so it is important that employers do their part to help make this a reality.

Our speakers will include Cory Vigil from the VetNet program at Working Wardrobes; Frank Fletcher, the Local Veterans Employment Representative at America's Job Center of California at the Santa Ana W/O/R/K Center; Raj Talwar, a supervisor in the Anaheim Parole Office; Stephanie Hammerwold of Pacific Reentry Career Services; and Edward Clarke, the founder of Need4Bridges. We are working on adding additional speakers to our lineup.

This event would not be possible without the support of our friends at the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP), Working Wardrobes, Need4Bridges and the Orange County One-Stop Center.

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We are continuing to work hard to get our programs off the ground and to spread the word about the benefits of employing those in the reentry community. This means putting on events and participating in activities that foster strong connections between the formerly incarcerated and members of the community who can support successful reentry following release from jail or prison. Success depends on a community of service providers, employers, friends and family and more, and we have been keeping ourselves busy in doing our part to support employment for the reentry community in Orange County.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is coming up on June 7 in Irvine. This event will bring together employers, HR professionals and hiring managers to learn more about hiring the formerly incarcerated and how to implement fair chance hiring practices in the workplace. We hope to do more events like this in the future and are planning opportunities that bring together job seekers and employers. This event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to register soon.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Reentry Resource Fair

We are excited to be involved in this year's Reentry Resource Fair, which will be held on June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center (2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim). This fair is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) with the support of many local agencies and individuals. The fair will bring together agencies, employers and other service providers that are ready to help formerly incarcerated people and their families. Pacific Reentry Career Services will be there to offer resume critiques and job search coaching. Be sure to come by our table and say hi.

Involvement with OCREP

Speaking of OCREP, we continue to be thankful for our involvement with this amazing group that is working to bring together a variety of people and organizations that assist the formerly incarcerated in Orange County. Stephanie Hammerwold, the Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, was recently named treasurer of the OCREP advisory committee. We look forward to continuing our involvement with OCREP as we work to build a strong reentry community in Orange County.

Speaking to College Students

Stephanie Hammerwold recently spoke to a Chicano and Latino Studies class at Cal State Long Beach with Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan from Working Wardrobes. Ashley is also the assistant director of OCREP. Stephanie and Ashley spoke to Professor Maythee Rojas's class about the reentry community in Orange County as well as the work OCREP, Working Wardrobes and Pacific Reentry Career Services are doing.

Job Search Guide Fundraiser

We are still working to raise money to print our Job Search Guide. Your donation to this campaign will help get our guide into the hands of formerly incarcerated job seekers. Donate soon so that your name can be listed on our acknowledgement page in the guide.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Don't miss out on the latest Pacific Reentry Career Services news. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter for all the latest updates.

Sponsor Our Job Search Guide

Pacific Reentry Career Services is committed to helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. We are also dedicated to supporting the reentry community by providing resources and advocating for fair chance hiring.

We have created a Job Search Guide as a resource for formerly incarcerated job seekers. The guide will be provided free of charge to the women in our mentorship program and to other formerly incarcerated job seekers that participate in our workshops or reach out to us for assistance.

By donating to this campaign, you will help offset the printing expense of our 2017 Job Search Guide. Each booklet costs approximately $3.60 to print.

The Job Search Guide is 28-page tool that helps our clients understand the job search process, make career plans, create resumes, learn about completing applications, prepare for interviews and to create a plan for post-release employment success.

Your name will also be printed on a recognition page inside so they know that they are being supported by people in their community and beyond.

Your donation will go a long way in assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in building successful lives.

Visit our GoFundMe page to sponsor the Job Search Guide!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

If you are not subscribed to our email newsletter, here are some of the things you missed in the first edition:

  • An update on the recent "Reimagining Reentry" fundraiser put on by our friends at OCREP
  • A link to board member Jenni Buchanan's recent article about Linda Offray of Shepherd's Door
  • News about our upcoming Fair Chance Hiring Summit on June 7 at 9 a.m. at the Irvine One-Stop Career Center

Be sure to subscribe, so you don't miss out on updates from Pacific Reentry Career Services as well as information about our June 7 Fair Chance Hiring Summit in Irvine.

Fair Chance Hiring Summits

UPDATE: Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is scheduled for June 7, 2017 at the One-Stop Center in Irvine, CA. For more information and to register for this free event, please see our summit page.

There are many myths about hiring those with a criminal record, and this creates significant barriers for job seekers. At Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals is to help break down these myths and to support employers in hiring the formerly incarcerated. Later this year we hope to start the conversation with employers by launching our Fair Chance Hiring Summits.

What is a Fair Chance Hiring Summit?

We have attended a number of reentry events and meetings since making the decision to found Pacific Reentry Career Services. One thing we noticed is that it is a challenge to get employers to the table when discussing the hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. Employers are an important part of the community and a key part of helping people rebuild their lives following release from jail or prison, so it is important that we include them in the conversation.

The Fair Chance Hiring Summits are designed to provide a forum for employers to learn the advantages, challenges and rewards of hiring the formerly incarcerated. There will be plenty of time for questions and brainstorming, and attendees will also take away information on programs like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Federal Bonding and community resources. Attendees will leave with specific actions they can take to implement fair chance hiring practices in their workplaces.

Employers will also have the chance to talk to service providers who work with the reentry community, employers who have had success with fair chance hiring and members of the reentry community.

Who Should Attend?

The summits are ideal for business owners, HR professionals and those that oversee hiring for their company. We also welcome employers who have had success hiring the formerly incarcerated, so they can share their experiences with other employers. This is also a good event for formerly incarcerated people who have an employment success story and advice they want to share with employers.

How Can Employers Get Involved?

The first Fair Chance Hiring Summit will be later this year in Orange County. Stay tuned to our blog for information on date, time and location. If you are interested in participating in or hosting an upcoming summit, please use our contact form to get in touch with us.

Can Service Providers Participate?

Yes, service providers are welcome to attend. This includes organizations that work with the reentry population on securing employment and those who work in parole and probation. One of our goals is to foster connections between those working with formerly incarcerated job seekers with employers.

Are Job Seekers Welcome to Attend?

This is not a hiring event, so it would not be ideal for job seekers to attend. We will be planning hiring events in the future that will bring fair chance employers and job seekers together, so we encourage you to stay tuned to our blog for more information about upcoming events.

Remember to check our blog regularly and sign up for our newsletter for updates on Fair Chance Hiring Summits and other events.

What is Fair Chance Hiring?

Simply having a criminal record should not be enough to keep someone from being hired. Fair chance hiring refers to policies that help those with a criminal record find jobs they are qualified for. This can include removing the question about criminal convictions from job applications (also called “Ban the Box”), moving questions about criminal record to later in the hiring process and only asking about criminal record when it is relevant to the job.

Here at Pacific Reentry Career we are committed to educating employers on the benefits of hiring the reentry population. With that in mind, we have addressed some of the most common questions we have heard about fair chance hiring, and we have included links to useful fair chance hiring resources throughout this article.

How does fair chance hiring benefit employers?
One in three Americans has a criminal record. If employers automatically reject these job seekers, they are missing out on a large number of qualified applicants. Many people with criminal records are qualified and ready to work.

How does fair chance hiring benefit formerly incarcerated job seekers?
Getting a good job with a steady income is a huge step in rebuilding a life following incarceration. It can help reduce recidivism, secure housing and help to reunite families. Often checking yes to the job application question about criminal record can automatically land someone in the reject pile. By moving the question about criminal background to later in the process (or not asking it at all if it is not relevant to the job), formerly incarcerated job seekers can be evaluated based on work history, education and other job qualifications, which gives them a fair shot at landing a good job. Their criminal record no longer becomes an automatic rejection.

Does fair chance hiring mean I should never ask about criminal background?
You can still ask about criminal background if you practice fair chance hiring, but you should evaluate when in the process you look at criminal background. The simplest thing is to remove the question about criminal background from your job application and to ask about it once a conditional offer has been made if it is relevant to the job. This gives job seekers a chance to be evaluated on qualifications without having a criminal record unfairly bias a hiring manager against them. For some jobs, you may want to do away with the question all together.

What is the EEOC guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring?
In 2012, the EEOC issued guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring. The EEOC’s guidance comes from the fact that certain racial and ethnic groups experience higher rates of incarceration and may therefore face barriers to employment. This may lead to discriminatory hiring practices. The EEOC’s guidance encourages employers to only look into an applicant’s criminal background if it is relevant to the job. This is not law, but it is a good place for employers to start when figuring out how to change their hiring process so it does not create unfair biases against people with records. Click on the link at the beginning of this answer or visit the EEOC’s information page for more information on the guidance.

What if I want to use a background company to review criminal records of potential hires?
There are federal and state laws that govern the use of background check companies. Root & Rebound’s “California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit” offers detailed information on the requirements for California employers. If you are thinking about employing a background check company, it is best to consult with an employment attorney to make sure your process fits within the legal requirements.

Are there ways I can protect my business if I do end up making a bad hire?
Many people with criminal records go on to live productive lives following release from jail or prison. The U.S. Department of Labor established the Federal Bonding program in 1966 to provide fidelity bonds to cover at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers. This includes formerly incarcerated individuals. This program is free for employers and employees and covers the first six months of employment. For more information, visitthe Federal Bonding Program website or contact your local EDD office in California. Keep in mind that only about 1% of these bonds are ever claimed, so those covered by bonds have had a high success rate with employers.

Are there any tax benefits for hiring formerly incarcerated people?
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal program that provides a tax incentive to employers who hire people from difficult-to-employ groups, which includes the formerly incarcerated. You can learn more about WOTC on the Department of Labor’s website. California offers additional incentives to employers in designated geographical areas. For more information on the California incentive, visit the Franchise Tax Board’s site.

What can I do to show that my business supports fair chance hiring?
Visit the Dave's Killer Bread website to take the Second Chance Pledge to show that you are committed to removing barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated. Train hiring managers to make fair decisions regarding candidates with criminal records, support community programs that help the formerly incarcerated find employment and spread the word about the benefits of hiring the reentry population.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is always a good idea to check with an employment attorney before making changes to your hiring process and to ensure that your hiring practices are legal and fit within the requirements of the law for your location.