San Francisco Ban the Box Law

Published Feb. 17, 2014

San Francisco Ban the Box Law

San Francisco is the fifth municipality in the U.S. to restrict criminal background checks during employment screening.

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 Aug. 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 have ban the box laws: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island.

Ban the Box Restrictions for San Francisco Employers

Employers with 20 or more workers, 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 Aug. 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 percent 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.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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