Yet another city is considering making it illegal for employers and landlords to inquire about arrest records and convictions. San Francisco officials want to prohibit landlords, city contractors, and private employers from questioning individuals about their previous arrests or conviction history before determining their suitability for a job or housing.
If this legislation passes, San Francisco will join Philadelphia, Massachusetts, New York, and Hawaii in protecting consumers with criminal records. More importantly, it will require inquiries about one’s criminal past to be postponed until a decision has been made regarding employment/housing. Furthermore, an employer/landlord must determine if the prior criminal record conviction(s) is “substantially related” to the job or housing in question before making a final determination.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 30% of the nation’s adult population has a criminal record. Advocates of the new law claim that private employers are privileged to these records based on reports provided by background screening companies. Due to current overcrowding at state prisons throughout California, tens of thousands of prisoners will be released, and will be seeking gainful employment. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon explains that the way in which we “work the reentry process” will be very crucial.
The new legislation will offer a foot in the door to those who have been denied employment or housing opportunities previously. Employers have discretion on who they hire based on information contained within a background screening report. If this law passes, employers and landlords would need to review the reported criminal case(s) and determine if a direct correlation can be established. As one landlord put it “They’re putting a burden on private individuals like myself or you to make a determination on someone’s criminal background.”
With an increase in discrimination claims brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by consumers, legislation like this one will likely continue to become more prevalent and adopted by other states and/or municipalities.