Background Checks Bill Passes Senate

A California Chamber of Commerce-supported bill that will restore the accessibility of key court electronic indexes for conducting background checks passed the Senate this week.

SB 1262 (Bradford; D-Gardena) preserves access to work by removing roadblocks to timely completion of employment background checks.

It passed the Senate with unanimous support on May 24 and moves on for consideration in the Assembly.

Specifically, SB 1262 restores the long-standing accessibility of driver license numbers and dates of birth in California court electronic indexes.

Due to the prevalence of common names, this critical information is necessary to establish whether a court record belongs to a specific job or rental housing applicant. Without a return to the status quo, an applicant’s name could produce hundreds or thousands of records unrelated to that individual.

Background Check Delays

A 2021 case out of Riverside County, California called All of Us or None of Us v. Hamrick halted thousands of background checks last summer when it incorrectly interpreted California Rule of Court 2.507 regarding court electronic indexes as prohibiting searches by date of birth or driver license numbers, including the ability to use this information as search filters.

This decision drastically limits the results returned to users of electronic indexes, causing the background check process to slow to a crawl or grind to a halt.

CalChamber members reported delays of multiple weeks in hiring and sometimes were unable to accurately complete a background check.

Restoring Access to Work

In urging legislators to support SB 1262, the CalChamber — joined by nearly 50 employer associations and chambers of commerce — pointed out that if organizations, including those that are legally mandated to perform background checks on applicants, can no longer use search filters such as date of birth and driver license number in conducting routine checks of court records, they will be left with nothing but names, and little or no way to associate a court record with a specific individual.

This is especially problematic, the CalChamber said, with the prevalence of common names. Hundreds — indeed, thousands — of potential false positives will result, rendering record search results meaningless.

Many businesses and nonprofits are required to perform background checks before they can put people to work. Even if not required, some organizations or apartment owners will conduct checks to ensure that they are maintaining a safe environment.

When a person wants a job or apartment, they often need that opportunity right away. It is vital that the ability to timely review applicants’ records is restored, because without SB 1262, those applicants are at risk of being denied access to work and housing, the CalChamber stated.

SB 1262 resolves this issue by explicitly allowing electronic indexes to be searched and filtered by a person’s driver license number or date of birth, or both. The bill is essential to timely placing applicants in open job positions and ensuring Californians have access to work.

Staff Contact: Ashley Hoffman

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Ashley Hoffman joined the CalChamber in August 2020 as a policy advocate specializing in labor and employment and workers’ compensation issues. She was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of her efforts on behalf of members. Before joining the CalChamber, she was an associate attorney in the Sacramento office of Jackson Lewis P.C., representing employers in civil litigation and administrative matters, as well as advising employers on best practices, including compliance with labor laws. She previously worked as a litigation associate and a summer associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Los Angeles. She also was a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis and a judicial extern for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena. Hoffman holds a B.A. with high honors in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Michael T. Masin scholar, an editor at the UCLA Law Review, and staff member for the Women’s Law Journal. See full bio