Effective January, 1, 2018, employers in California with five or more employees cannot make employment decisions regarding convictions unless first performing an individualized assessment. The Assessment entails consideration of:  the underlying facts of the crime as they relate to the nature and seriousness of the conviction;  the period of time that has elapsed since the crime was committed and whether the terms and condition of the sentence have been completed, along with  the duties and functions of the employment position [nature of the job] in question. Under the existing law through and including December 31, 2017, only governmental entities (City, County and State) were barred from making such personnel decisions.
Additionally, a private employer cannot ask questions, whether during a face to face interview and/or on the Application for Employment form, regarding a criminal history of a prospective employee until after a preliminary decision has been made that the applicant is qualified for the open position. Essentially, an employer cannot consider a person’s criminal history until after a preliminary or conditional job offer has been made to the prospective employee. As such, the employer is prohibited from having a background check performed until after making a conditional employment offer.
Assembly Bill 1008 (AB 1008) was signed into law on October 14, 2017 and, as a result, a new section has been added to the Fair Employment and Housing Act, commonly referred to as FEHA, to wit: Government Code Section 12952.
Shortly before signing into law the above mandate, on October 12, 2017, the Governor took a quite similar position as above when he made it a misdemeanor for violating AB 138, which prevents an employer from asking questions of a prospective employee regarding their previous salary, nor could employers consider the salary history as a factor in making decisions regarding an applicant for employment. The new law does not prohibit an applicant from voluntarily providing salary history information and it can be used by the prospective employer in making its own decisions in connection with the salary to be offered. Labor Section 432.3
None of the above should be interpreted as a prohibition against any Governmental agency (Board, Bureau and/or Department) from inquiring as to a conviction, commonly referred to as a background check, as part of the process of obtaining a professional or occupational license; similarly, this inquiry is an integral part of the renewal process regarding any such license. It should be remembered, there are approximately 50 agencies, including the California Department of Consumer Affairs. All of these state agencies have the power to investigate, deny, suspend or revoke a license, in the interest of the health and safety of the public, and thereby rely upon the underlying facts of the crime, as they relate to the duties and functions of a licensed professional or occupational license. Business and Professions Code Section 475-499.
For additional information, see Administrative Law Attorney.