SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An ordinance that limits how employers and housing providers use criminal history in their decision making goes into effect in San Francisco next week.
The ‘Fair Chance Ordinance’ requires some larger employers, city contractors, and housing providers to review an individual’s qualifications before inquiring about arrest and conviction records.
The relatively new concept in criminal justice, also referred to as “ban the box”, would ban those red-flag questions that tend to ruin one’s chances from the get go.
The ordinance specifies which criminal arrest and conviction records are off-limits to employers, and only allows employers to inquire about criminal history after a conditional offer of employment is given. For example, a hiring manager must first offer employment conditional on a background check before they can ask if the applicant is a convicted child molester. Even once a criminal history is discovered, only offenses that directly relate to the individual’s ability to perform the job can be considered for denial by the employer.
Housing providers face some of the toughest restrictions, leaving questions about convictions more than seven years old off-limits in their decision making process, no matter the crime. If an applicant is denied due to a conviction or unresolved arrest, they have a chance to appeal.
Advocates of the ordinance, including the chamber of commerce claim it can be practically impossible to get a job or find a place to live when individuals have to submit an application indicating a criminal record, no matter how minor, or how long ago.
The ordinance was passed in February, and takes effect August 13th.