First Lawsuit Under CA’s Fair Chance Act Filed Against Ralph’s Grocery Store: A Message for CA Employers to Comply

Weintraub Tobin

In December 2023, the California Civil Rights Department (“CRD”) filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit under the California Fair Chance Act (“Act”) against Ralphs Grocery Store (“Ralphs”) in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Background Re: the Act.

The Act (sometimes referred to as the “Ban the Box” law) went into effect in 2018 and aims to combat discrimination and ultimately enhance public safety by reducing undue barriers to employment for people who have been previously involved in the criminal legal system. In passing the Act, the Legislature recognized that “employment is essential to helping formerly incarcerated people support themselves and their families” and reduces the likelihood of an individual reoffending. In general, the Act prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about a job applicant’s conviction history before making a conditional job offer of employment; requires specific procedures for considering an applicant’s criminal history after a conditional job offer is made; and limits the types of convictions an employer can consider to  disqualify an individual – namely only those convictions that have a direct adverse relationship to the job responsibilities of the position applied for.

Allegations Against Ralphs.

The CRD alleges that Ralphs has ignored and continues to ignore the Act’s requirements, including by screening out otherwise qualified applicants on the basis of criminal histories that do not have any adverse relationship with the duties of the job for which they were applying. The CRD claims that Ralphs repeatedly violated the Act’s procedural and substantive requirements and has done so since the law’s enactment. The CRD says that it obtained information during its investigation that indicates that multiple candidates lost their job offers based on convictions for a single misdemeanor count of excessive noise, and others were disqualified based on convictions from other states for simple cannabis possession. According to the CRD, these types of convictions, and hundreds more, have no adverse relationship with the duties of working at a grocery store and were not legitimate grounds for withdrawing a conditional offer of employment. As part of the lawsuit, CRD is seeking monetary damages for the individuals who were denied jobs or lost jobs as a result of Ralphs’ screening practices, and a court order to require Ralphs to come into compliance with the Act.

CRD’s Other Enforcement Action.

In its announcement of the lawsuit against Ralphs (which can be obtained here), the CRD outlines other enforcement efforts it has taken since the Act went into effect in 2018. The CRD says it has investigated hundreds of complaints alleging discrimination in employment based on criminal history information, and has secured approximately 70 settlements on behalf of affected individuals.


The CRD has made enforcement of the Act a priority and covered employers are advised to review their hiring policies and practices, and train their hiring managers, to ensure compliance with the Act.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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