Bill makes ex-cons a protected class

JUNE 1, 2010

By LAURA SUCHESKI

If you don’t hire ‘em, you might join ‘em, if a new bill proposed by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D – Inglewood, becomes law.  The Assemblyman is sponsoring AB2727 — otherwise known as the “Re-entry Employment Opportunity Act” – a bill that will make criminals out of employers who discriminate against applicants with criminal histories.

The bill made the California Chamber of Commerce’s infamous “Job Killer” list for reducing the autonomy of employers to make decisions that affect their liability.

The bill would prohibit employers from excluding applications from convicted criminals if they cannot prove “there is a direct relationship between the criminal offenses and the employment sought” and “the granting of employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific persons or the general public.”   Existing laws already prohibit employers from considering an applicant’s prior arrests, detentions or charges that did not result in a conviction.

Assemblyman Bradford’s office declined to comment.

The stated purpose of this bill is to codify existing federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission into state law, but several interest groups contend that it goes far beyond that, providing more opportunities for civil suits on vague grounds.

Employers’ groups object to the “unnecessary” and “vague” law that goes above and beyond existing federal anti-discrimination laws.   “These phrases are not defined,” writes the California Chamber of Commerce. “In establishing these new standards the employer must consider additional undefined criteria, such as the ‘effect’ the conviction will have on the applicant’s ability to perform on the job duties, the ‘seriousness’ of the offense, and whether the employer has ‘legitimate’ interests…Subjective and undefined new standards are not only confusing and complex for employers to navigate, but each and every new standard and term leaves employers open for scrutiny and legal challenge,”

“The bill opens up a new private right of action against both public and private employers if they run afoul of this new law,” says Julianne Broyles, speaking on behalf of client California Association of Joint Powers Authorities which has come out against the bill. The California Chamber of Commerce adds, “A private right of action with one-sided attorneys’ fees recovery can encourage unnecessary and unmeritorious litigation over such disputes.”

Appropriations Committee member Asssemblywoman Diane Harkey, R – Dana Point, also expressed her concerns: “Enacting AB 2727 as proposed would place potential employers at risk of a lawsuit for merely rejecting an application for hire. While I respect the author’s intent to seek employment opportunities for those that have paid their debt to society, businesses should not be forced to hire anyone, and certainly don’t need more frivolous or class-action lawsuits.  We should respect the right employers to make hiring decisions, which may involve a determination regarding the safety of their workplace and their customers.”

Opponents of the bill note that with every business decision, employers seek to minimize risk and maximize profit.  These judgment calls rely on evaluations of prospective employees’ future performances.  A history of past transgressions with the law, society’s only codified values system, is, of course, one measure of risk to employers, just like a loaner’s credit history is to lenders.   Supporters of such legislation believe that everyone should be given a second chance — a nice sentiment, but the legislation would in effect turn a second chance — a private business decision — into a government-enforced right.

Beyond the issues of rights, the Chamber and other business groups fear that at a time when California employers already are burdened by doing in the state with the fifth worst lawsuit climate, it seems that some state lawmakers are set on making it to number one.

7 comments

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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 1 June, 2010, 14:36

    Given how our legislators operate these days, maybe it’s a future employment program for themselves.

    Reply this comment
  2. Gene Brouillette
    Gene Brouillette 2 June, 2010, 12:42

    Sacramento should hire them. Same culture

    Reply this comment
  3. Gil Reeser
    Gil Reeser 2 June, 2010, 17:31

    I know two small business owners who hired ex-cons. After one experience, they both said never again. I am sure that many are looking for a break, but if you own a business, you don’t help employment by going broke yourself.

    Reply this comment
  4. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 2 June, 2010, 18:25

    Let’s see now, you refuse to fund rehabilitation programs for them while they’re in prison. When they get out (despite the best efforts of the Rabid Right to keep everyone incarcerated for life), they get no parole monitoring, no addicition treatment, and no support to get a job to help support themselves and their families. You even want to protect those who discriminate against people who have done their time and want to make honest livings. Then you are shocked–shocked!–when they become repeat offenders. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.

    Reply this comment
  5. lookinforachance
    lookinforachance 2 June, 2010, 21:36

    I understand the business point of view, there’s liability. Regardless of weather this law goes through, hired or not hired. This is always going to be true, with whoever is hired. Don’t tell me theirs not turn over at your company and the first person you hire is the perfect fit.
    I am a registered Republican an unfortunately a felon, for a petty drug charge. I am a hard worker that is being held back from making a livable living now. I would work twice as hard; to anyone who gave me a chance.
    Business should be able to make there own choice as to who they hire with out the fear of being sued, yet maybe a tax break for those who do take on people who just want to work hard for their company and grow and be a productive member of the community.

    Frustrated and Motivated

    Reply this comment
  6. willingtowork
    willingtowork 2 June, 2010, 21:51

    Ex-offenders are discriminated against more than any person of race, gender, creed, religion or sexual orientation in our society. And there is very little help out there for those who have to disclose that they’ve been imprisoned. Many go into business for themselves because no one will hire them. The “stigma” of being an ex-offender is often greater than the offense itself — particularly, for low-level, non-violent offenders.

    There is no real relief. If you disclose it, you don’t get hired. If you don’t disclose it, and they find out about it—you get “unhired” (fired), and thus are back at square one.

    Reply this comment
  7. Anthony Tarquinto
    Anthony Tarquinto 3 June, 2010, 17:40

    Send them to Arizona to get that wall built. Then Texas. I’ll cut the first check.

    Reply this comment

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