San Francisco Limits Employers’ Applicant Background Checks

The City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Ordinance and Mayor Edwin M. Lee signed it into law. The new ordinance (San Francisco Police Code, Article 49) limits the use of criminal history information in pre-employment screening and goes into effect August 13, 2014.

Similar language was added to the City’s Administrative Code to require City contractors and subcontractors to adhere to the same limits when making decisions regarding employment of persons for work on City contracts and subcontracts.

San Francisco is the fifth municipality in the U.S. to restrict criminal background checks during employment screening: Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, and Seattle are the other four. Four states also “ban the box”: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.

New Restrictions for San Francisco Employers

Employers with 20 or more employees, City contractors, and housing providers are prohibited from requiring job applicants to disclose any conviction history or unresolved arrests until either after the first live interview with the person after a conditional offer of employment. Regardless, there are some details regarding an applicant’s criminal history that remain off limits during all stages of the hiring process. Employers are prohibited from asking applicants about or requiring disclosure of:

  • Arrests not leading to a conviction.
  • Participation in or completion of a diversion or a deferral of judgment program.
  • Convictions that have been dismissed or expunged.
  • Juvenile justice system convictions or adjudications.
  • Convictions more than seven years old.
  • Information pertaining to an offense other than a felony or misdemeanor, such as an infraction.

New Hiring Processes for San Francisco Employers

  • Posting Requirement: The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) produced a posting ahead of the August 13, 2014 posting deadline. The new posting details applicant and employee rights under the “ban the box” ordinance. The posting will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and all languages spoken by more than 5% of the San Francisco workforce.
  • Employment Solicitations: Employers must state in all job solicitations and employment advertisements that the Employer will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories.
  • Copy to Applicant: Prior to conducting a conviction history inquiry, an Employer must provide the applicant a copy of the notice.


City Posting Coverage

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