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California job seekers with records get a break

As a growing number of people in the California workforce are followed by their past records of criminal defense, more businesses are eliminating questions that would screen for criminal backgrounds among applicants. Even the state government is getting involved with the trend, with a recent bill requiring state agencies to find out first whether an applicant is qualified before inquiring about his or her criminal record. Background checks will still be permitted before hiring, but criminal records do not hold the same weight or severity as they had in the past.

The trend is considered a victory for civil rights advocates throughout the state, who say that ex-offenders have a wide variety of skills to offer in the workplace. Lowering employment barriers will help the nearly one in four Californians who have been arrested or have a criminal record, according to these advocacy groups. In fact, asking about criminal records can have a chilling effect upon hiring, especially considering that 7 percent of Americans have spent time in state or federal custody.

The campaign first took hold in Hawaii about 15 years ago; with that location's limited population, screening for criminal records hardly makes sense in certain industries. Further changes have been on the horizon for many jurisdictions ever since, especially in the wake of the massive financial downturn that has dominated the decade thus far. Instead of automatically turning down employee candidates who have "checked the box" on their application indicating that they have a criminal record, employers are now being urged to make sure that they are choosing the most qualified candidate, no matter his or her history.

All ex-offenders have the right to work. Without employment opportunities, this population may easily return to crime to support their families. Providing jobs for those with criminal records will not only boost the economy, but it will also provide great benefit to individuals who would otherwise be at risk.

Source:, "California gives break to job seekers with criminal past" Michael B. Marois, Oct. 10, 2013

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results