Employment Law


Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell About Criminal Records When Applying for Jobs

  • Jan 08 2014
  • Gilleon Law Firm, APC

It is estimated that one in four adult Californians has an arrest or conviction record. To remove the barriers to employment at a time when U.S. unemployment is more than seven percent, California enacted a law that prohibits state and municipal governments to ask about a job candidate’s criminal past until later in the interview process. There will be no more questions about criminal convictions on job applications. This new law is a big deal for California, which has the most state and local government employees of all 50 states.

The law requires government agencies to first evaluate a job candidate and determine if the applicant is qualified. Later, if needed, the employer is permitted to raise questions about the candidate’s criminal past. The law also prohibits state and local agencies from conducting a background check until the candidate proves to be qualified.

Additional employment protections

Before enacting the new law last summer, California law already prohibited employers from quizzing job candidates about prior arrests unless it resulted in a conviction. Employers may not seek the information through other channels or use arrests in their hiring, promotion or termination decisions.

Don’t ask about expungements

Effective January 1, 2014, is a new law that prohibits California employers from asking questions or using information about candidates’ expunged or sealed criminal records. When a person’s record is expunged, it is placed aside and dismissed.


An employer who violates California’s laws prohibiting asking about criminal history is liable for actual damages of no less than $200 plus costs and attorneys’ fees. If it is concluded that an employer acted intentionally, the employer may be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and treble damages of no less than $500.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against when applying for a job because of your criminal history, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer. It is important to schedule a free consultation with an experienced San Diego employment law attorney.

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