Under the recently-passed Assembly Bill 1843, California will add to the list of questions that an employer cannot ask during a job interview. Under existing law, employers already cannot inquire about an applicant’s prior arrests which did not result in a criminal conviction, participation is a diversion program, or any convictions that have been dismissed or sealed by a judge. Beginning January 1, 2017, employers will no longer be allowed to ask job applicants about juvenile criminal convictions, including convictions for serious, violent crimes. Employers also may not seek information about an applicant’s juvenile criminal history from any other source or utilize such information as a factor in hiring decisions.
This new law is subject only to narrow exceptions for the hiring of police officers, employees of the Department of Justice, and health care workers. If an employer violates this new law, the applicant may seek “actual damages”. Thus, if an applicant was denied a high paying job because the employer asked about juvenile convictions, damages could be significant. There is one silver lining for employers, however. If an employer is sued for negligently hiring an employee, the plaintiff will not be able to prove the employer’s negligence by showing that the employer failed to inquire about the employee’s juvenile criminal history, because these inquiries are now unlawful.