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  • Meredith Schmitz, Rise Together

Advancing movement towards fair chance opportunities

Rise Together joined representatives from the business, government, and non-profit sectors at the Fair Chance Employer Summit in Contra Costa County to promote fair chance employment opportunities for the re-entry community.

The goal of the summit was to engage private sector employers and encourage participation in fair hiring practices. Managers from organizations committed to #FairChance employment practices spoke about successful employees from the re-entry community. Individuals who identify as members of the reentry community shared personal stories of success in the workplace after incarceration. Root & Rebound, a reentry advocacy organization based in Oakland, CA, presented employers with a Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit training. This training provided employers the practical steps to incorporating fair chance employment practices into their businesses.

The Fair Chance Employer Summit and California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring toolkit training comes at a pivotal time for employment laws in California. On October 14, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1008, a "ban-the-box" bill which will take effect in January 2018. This is an extension to existing California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that prohibits public employers from inquiring about an applicant’s record during the application process. It will be an unlawful employment practice under FEHA for an employer with 5 or more employees to include on any application for employment any question that seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s conviction history prior to receiving a conditional job offer. California joins 9 states, the District of Columbia, and 29 cities and counties now extend the fair-chance policy to government contractors or private employers.

More jurisdictions are also adopting policies in addition to ban-the-box, such as incorporating the best practices of the 2012 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions and adopting innovative strategies such as targeted hiring. Robust fair-chance employment laws ensure a fairer decision-making process by requiring employers to consider job-relatedness of a conviction, time passed, and mitigating circumstances or rehabilitation evidence.

This is a positive step for California in ensuring #FairChance employment practices and employment opportunities. An estimated 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record and harsh criminal screenings keep pipelines closed for critical populations. We must continue to educate employers, advocate for policy, and create opportunities for employment accessible for the most critical populations in our state.

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