AB 556 Impacts All Employers; AB 218 Impacts Public Employers Only
Gov. Brown recently signed two bills that affect hiring and fair employment practices in California. Assembly Bill 556, which adds employment discrimination protections for military and veterans, may require all employers to update employment policies. Assembly Bill 218, which involves asking job applicants about criminal convictions, may require public employers to update job applications and hiring practices.
AB 556 adds "military and veteran status" to the existing list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. “Military and veteran status” is defined as “a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard.” The bill also provides an exemption for an inquiry by an employer regarding military or veteran status for the purpose of awarding a veteran's preference as permitted by law. All employers – public and private alike – should amend their employment policies to reflect this additional protected characteristic before January 1, 2014 when the law goes into effect.
AB 218, which takes effect July 1, 2014, adds Section 432.9 to the Labor Code. The new legislation will prohibit a state or local agency from asking an applicant to disclose information regarding a criminal conviction, except in specified situations such as criminal justice positions or jobs that legally require a criminal background check, until the agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position. The law provides that the minimum qualifications are those that are stated in any notice for the position. This changes current law which allows both public and private employers to ask an applicant for employment to disclose information concerning a conviction. Public employers should review job applications and hiring practices to ensure compliance.