The State Worker: Jerry Brown's approval of new hiring law prompts state action

jortiz@sacbee.comOctober 14, 2013 

A new law that delays when California state and local public employers can ask job applicants about their criminal histories reflects existing state policy, but it still has state officials thinking about the measure's implications.

Several weeks before Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 218 on Thursday, officials at the Department of Human Resources started meeting to discuss the law's potential impact on the 150 or so entities under gubernatorial authority.

"We really have tried to get ahead of this," CalHR spokeswoman Pat McConahay said in a telephone interview.

The measure, which takes effect July 1, 2014, requires state and local government employers hold off asking a job applicants whether they have a conviction record until after their minimum qualifications for the position are established. Assembly Bill 218 still permits up-front inquiries for jobs within a criminal justice agency and other positions that require a background check.

Government employers can ask anyone whether they have a criminal conviction record after the candidate's minimum qualifications have been established.

The state in 2010 moved two criminal-history questions from its standard job application to a supplemental form that departments distribute as needed. And any department can ask verbally or in writing whether a job candidate has a felony or domestic abuse record once the applicant has cleared minimum-requirement screening.

CalHR has been surveying how departments apply the policy (or haven't). The department intends to issue guidance and launch statewide training for best practices for recruiting, interviewing and checking references, McConahay said, because "we want to make it very clear."

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