Articles Posted in DFEH / EEOC

criminal background checks californiaAs of January 1, 2018, a new law in California adding Government Section 12952 to California Fair Employment and Housing Act went into effect. This new law states that it’s is unlawful for employers with five or more employees to include on any application for employment any question that seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s conviction history, inquire into or consider the conviction history of an applicant until that applicant has received a conditional offer. Employer also shall not consider, distribute, or disseminate information about any of the following while conducting a conviction history background check in connection with any application for employment: arrest not resulting in conviction, referral to or participation in pre-trial or post-trial diversion program, or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged, or legally eradicated pursuant to law.

This new law should help thousands of job applicants with prior criminal history get their foot in the door, as it prohibits any consideration of criminal history until after a conditional employment offer has been made. Further, once an offer has been made and a criminal background check is allowed, the employer cannot simply rescind the job offer because of that criminal history. The law imposes additional requirements on an employer to conduct an individualized assessment about whether a job applicant’s conviction history would negatively impact his ability to perform his job duties. AB 1008 requires that employer assess the following in making that decision: the nature and gravity of the offense, the time passed since the offense or conduct and completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job held or sought.

If the employer ultimately decides to deny employment to the candidate based on the above assessment, then it must provide the applicant with a written notification of the decision. That notification must include notice of the disqualifying conviction, a copy of the conviction history report, and an explanation of an applicant’s right to respond before the decision not to hire is final. If the job applicant decides to dispute the conviction history and notifies the employer in writing of the same, the employer must provide at least five additional days to the applicant to do so, and must consider any additional evidence provided by the applicant in making its final hiring decision.

what to expect from EEOC investigationEEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) are two main administrative agencies charged with address workplace discrimination. EEOC is federal agency, while DFEH is its California counterpart. These agencies pursue a very small number of cases that they pick from all the many inquiries they receive every year. EEOC investigation can take anywhere between 4-6 months and up to a year or longer, depending upon how busy your local EEOC branch is, the nature of allegations and the degree of cooperation of the employer with the process. A charge of discrimination must be filed within one year of the most recent discriminatory event. Obviously, if you believe you were terminated for discriminatory reasons, your termination would be that most recent event.

Most complaints received by these agencies result in no findings, and and issuance of a right to sue letter many months after a complaint is submitted. This is in part because these agencies have limited resources, and in part because many inquiries are either very hard to investigate or they simply have no merit. However, obtaining a right-to-sue letter is a requirement before a lawsuit for discrimination can be filed in California.

In some cases, allowing those agencies to investigate your discrimination allegations is a good idea. In other situations, especially if you have a strong case, it’s better to obtain an immediate right-to-sue letter, which can be done online through an attorney, and file a lawsuit without delay. This is especially important if there is a concern that with time evidence will “disappear” and witnesses will become unavailable.

Although there are sometimes strategic advantages to waiting for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or EEOC to complete its investigation of a charge of discrimination instead of filing a lawsuit right away, in many cases, waiting for that might not be the best strategic move, especially if you have already been (wrongfully) terminated and you have a “good” case. This is for two main reasons:

1. DFEH / EEOC rarely issues favorable findings to an aggrieved employee. It seems that in 90% or more of the cases investigated, DFEH concludes that there is insufficient evidence of discrimination and they issues a right to sue letter. This is in large because DFEH has limited resources, and cannot possibly thoroughly investigate every case. In most cases, the investigation of discrimination allegations is limited to interviewing the aggrieved employee and the employer. The employer always denies any wrongdoing, so DFEH has to pick whose word to take. The agency must pick their fights and attend to the most urgent and egregious cases that either affect a larger group of employees or set an example out of a particularly bad employer. They will not issue findings against an employer if the evidence seems to suggest that it’s a 50/50 call. An investigation may take from several months and up to a year or more. The right to-sue-letter issued by the agency is a necessary prerequisite to filing a lawsuit, but can be obtained by an attorney online in about 10 minutes without any actual involvement of DFEH.

2. Waiting for a year or longer to file a lawsuit can also create issues of proof, and make your case harder to win or settle. Memories of events tend to fade, documents get misplaced, lost or “intentionally” lost by employers. E-mails get deleted (often a single e-mail can be of critical important to proving a discrimination or retaliation case). Witnesses tend to move away or change their mind about helping you to testify and corroborate your version of the events. Even if you decide to wait for DFEH to complete its investigation, it is important that you secure sworn statements that are written in a proper form by your witnesses. Doing your “homework” early may prove to be very helpful later in the case, especially when the employer files a motion for summary judgment, which they almost always do, if the case is litigated in court long enough.