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New Online Tool Helps Californians Navigate Fair Chance Act

The California Civil Rights Department’s new online interactive guide will help residents understand the Fair Chance Act, which aims to reduce employment barriers for individuals with criminal histories.

Image shows screenshot of the California Civil Rights Department's Interactive Guide to understanding the Fair Chance Act.
Screenshot of the California Civil Rights Department's Interactive Guide to understanding the Fair Chance Act
A new online and interactive guide from the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) aims to help individuals with criminal histories better understand the state’s Fair Chance Act and how it applies to them in the context of combating workforce discrimination.

There are many ways government entities and other organizations are working to help prepare those individuals who are or have previously been involved in the justice system for entry into the workforce upon release. From the Michigan Department of Corrections’ statewide learning system, to the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections’ cloud certification course, to digital skills training for individuals who are incarcerated, the methods may vary but the intent is the same: to prepare people with criminal histories for entry or re-entry into the workforce.

The California Legislature recognized that almost 1 in 3 adults in the state have an arrest or conviction record; such a record can undermine their efforts to obtain employment. The Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, helps remove the barriers to employment for people with criminal histories.

The act essentially does three things. First, it prohibits employers at a business with five or more employees from asking about job applicants’ conviction histories before making a conditional job offer. Second, it requires specific procedures for considering an applicant’s criminal history after a conditional job offer. Finally, it limits convictions that employers can consider disqualifying to only include those that have a directly connected relationship with job responsibilities.

The law requires employers to consider an applicant’s criminal history on an individual basis. It also allows applicants to respond to a withdrawal of an offer with evidence of rehabilitation or other relevant circumstances.

However, navigating this law and understanding how the law might protect individuals can be a complicated process. As such, CRD worked with the University of California, Irvine School of Law and technology provider Neota Logic to create an interactive guide to simplify this process.

“At the Civil Rights Department, we will continue to leverage technology and every tool at our disposal to help protect Californians from discrimination,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish in an announcement.

The tool will help individuals anonymously assess whether they have experienced a violation of this law. For those who believe that their rights have been violated, the guide helps those individuals understand whether they are protected by this law.

The interactive guide also creates an individualized report for users, offering general information about the law and possible violations that may have occurred based on the responses that a user has provided. The report will also provide information on how to get support.

The ultimate goals of this tool are to combat discrimination and support community reintegration for those who has been involved with the justice system.

CRD has investigated hundreds of complaints alleging such discrimination since the Fair Chance Act went into effect. More than 60 settlements have been secured on behalf of affected individuals.