Background Check Job Killer Dead for Year

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A job killer bill that effectively prohibited consideration of conviction history in employment has been stopped this year after missing a key deadline last week.

SB 1345 (Smallwood-Cuevas; D-Los Angeles) would have effectively prohibited most employers from considering conviction history of an applicant, existing employee, or contractor in employment or contracting decisions.

Unintended Consequences

While the CalChamber agreed with the importance of ensuring that applicants with a conviction history are provided with fair access to the job market, the potential unintended consequences of SB 1345 were significant.

Outside of showing a “business necessity,” which would be a difficult bar to meet as discussed below, the only other exception is those employers that are required to conduct a background check or consider conviction history by law. That tends to apply only to heavily regulated industries (such as financial institutions or health care) or jobs the government has perceived to be sensitive in nature (schools or security guards).

Flawed Bill

In a letter to legislators, the CalChamber pointed out that SB 1345’s flaw is that many of the same rationales that served as the impetus for laws directing certain industries to conduct background checks, such as interacting with children or access to consumer financial information, apply to businesses not covered by those laws.

For example, youth sports/organizations operated through a park and recreation league or school district qualify for an exception, but private youth sports organizations do not.

Other reasons the CalChamber opposed SB 1345 include:

• The burden established under SB 1345 was so high that it effectively banned background checks unless the employer was required by law to conduct them;

• Requires employers already subject to background check laws to new requirements that may conflict with existing state/federal laws;

• Restrictions on the use of conviction history was expanded to independent contractors; and

• Certain convictions are relevant to every workplace. It is every employer’s goal to create a safe working environment for their workers and customers. Prohibiting an employer from becoming aware of or reacting to convictions for violent crimes, sex offenses, theft, or other serious crimes can undermine that goal.

SB 1345 failed to pass the Senate Judiciary and Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement committees before the April 26 deadline for legislation to move from policy to fiscal committees.

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