Ban the Box Protections
In the Ban the Box Era, more Californians with criminal records are being treated fairly than ever before. With new laws to protect those at a disadvantage in place, people are being judged on their own merits first and their criminal histories last. This represents a shift in the right direction. But few comprehensively understand the Ban the Box law and what protections it provides. Furthermore, California law limits who can run background checks and when screening job, apartment, or loan applicants. Coupled with the fact there are also ways you can clean your record to further limit who can see what, it's not easy to see how those with criminal convictions are seen by the public and what their privacy rights are. To better understand the significance of cleaning your record in the Ban the Box era, let's consider a few facts.
A Fair Chance
Under the California Fair Chance Act, which enforce the Ban the Box regulations, most employers must judge applicants on their merits and experience before resorting to background checks. In fact, an employer may only run a background check after a conditional offer of employment has been made, at which point they can run background checks but do face some restrictions on how they can use that information against the applicant. Basically, the California Fair Chance Act forces employers to delay the background check portion of the application process until the end.
Exceptions to the Rule
However, there are numerous exemptions to the requirement. For example, employers with five or fewer employees are exempt. So for those of you interested in working for small businesses or start-ups, realize that those companies are not subject to Ban the Box regulation. This means they can run a background check on an applicant at any point in the application process. And, again, employers have a right to run background checks after making a conditional offer and can reject applicants based on the results of said checks.
It's also important to note that certain governmental employers may retain the right to run background checks and outright deny applicants. If you expunge a conviction from your record (i.e. get it dismissed), you may still have to disclose the conviction to certain employers. This isn't to say a dismissal wouldn't help your chances of getting a job with one of these employers but simply that they are under a different set of regulations that may not fall in your favor.
Landlords and the Law
Also, the California Fair Chance Act does not address landlord-tenant screenings. California landlords may still run background checks on applicants. They are subject to numerous HUD regulations on how they can use that information and cannot outright deny applicants simply because they have a criminal record. They can, however, deny applicants with good cause to protect the safety of their tenants. If you cleaned your record and got a conviction dismissed or sealed a record, landlords would not see that information on a background check. This is a crucial difference, as securing housing is just as important as finding a job for those with criminal convictions.
Don't Let Your Criminal Record Hold You Back
Cleaning your record can improve your life. Even with Ban the Box, commercial background checks threaten to hold you back for years to come. One conviction can mean the difference between a great apartment, a promotion, or your dream job. Ban the Box certainly helps those convicted overcome stigma in certain situations, but cleaning your record is still an essential step in moving on from a criminal conviction.
Work closely with an experienced California criminal defense attorney who handles record cleaning if you want to take steps to clear your name. The numerous benefits the California Fair Chance Act provides are not exhaustive nor are they without exceptions, exemptions, and loopholes. You can be discriminated against based on your criminal record in California.
Cleaning your record can be complicated, but experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you navigate the process. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you navigate the criminal prosecution process from start to finish and are not afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.