Proposal seeks to improve prospects for the formerly incarcerated

Sup. Jane Kim's proposal seeks to eliminate bias against people who've served time behind bars.

Questions concerning an individual's criminal history have been banned from city agency employment applications in San Francisco since 2006. Now Sup. Jane Kim has proposed legislation to expand the reach of that policy into the private sector and affordable housing.

Introduced at the Board of Supervisors Tue/10, Kim’s legislation seeks to eliminate the bias of first impression that has long plagued the formerly incarcerated.

The Fair Chance ordinance builds upon existing city and state-level fair hiring policies, known as "ban the box" policies, already in place. It proposes to extend them to private businesses and affordable housing providers, as a way to remove "unnecessary barriers to stable housing and employment for individuals with conviction records," according to a description of the legislation issued by Kim’s office.

"The most important thing to remember is that this is not a hiring mandate,” Kim explained in an interview. “We just want to create a process that's based on merits.” She added, "We've also made it so you can only examine a persons arrest record for the last seven years in order to try to establish some sort of hiring standard."

Existing "Ban the box" policies forbid employers in the public sector from asking prospective employees about prior criminal convictions in the early application process — essentially eliminating the polarizing "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" check box from online and paper employment applications. Instead, it requires those that would request a background check to at least meet the person in question first. 

And it is a popular theme: "ban the box" policies in some form can be found in 10 states and more than 50 cities nationwide. Gov. Jerry Brown signed California's version into law back in October, while the city of Richmond established one of the most progressive "ban the box" policies in America, joining Seattle and Philadelphia as major metropolitan areas to have extended the ban into the private sector.

"Our office has been working on this since January, and we've spent lots of time talking to other states and municipalities about what has worked for them," Kim said.

Under San Francisco's current "ban the box" policy, individuals with prior felony convictions are permitted to withhold the potentially damning information only if they are applying for a position with the city.

But under the Fair Chance Ordinance, which is co-sponsored by Sup. Malia Cohen, that practice would be extended to all jobseekers looking for private-sector work, at establishments with staffs larger than 20 people, as well as applicants for public housing.

The Fair Chance Ordinance wouldn't place an outright ban on criminal inquiries, just require employers to hold off on background checks until after the interview, theoretically allowing recently integrated individuals an opportunity to contextualize their past indiscretions.

The idea behind the ban is simple. In the age of impersonal Internet applications, prospective employees are often quickly assessed in a binary manner, separating candidates into categories of hire-able or not the instant their applications are submitted.

And in an ultra-competitive job market, checking a box that condemns your past can condemn your future. There have been myriad reports about folks whose applications have been thrown out the moment that checked box is detected, but under Fair Chance, prospective employees would have the opportunity to get in front of their past.

And that's the idea. “We're just trying to help people get a foot in the door,” Kim said. “And we’re just trying to get folks to apply. A lot of [formerly incarcerated individuals] won't even apply for jobs, because of the ‘box.’”


program under existing law. Once expunged, a job applicant can legally answer "No" to the question about a criminal record even though, technically, that is not a true answer.

However, serious crimes generally cannot be expunged, such as certain kinds of felonies involving violence. I think a prospective employer has a reasonable right to know that a prospective employee is a convicted rapist.

In any event, background checks will reveal any criminal record so the only point of asking the question in an interview is to see how honest and open an employee is.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

convicted amongst us. Now if only she'd evince concern for SF's dwindling middle class vs. focusing her every effort on the poor, we might start getting somewhere.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

Just like every other politician.

But Kim cannot prevent employers from running background checks, so any applicants who have an unexpunged record will be weeded out anyway.

What a crazy idea - that I might want to know that the guy I am hiring is a serial rapist or convicted blackmailer.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

has her eyes set much higher than the Board of Supervisors so we have to look at her every action through that lens.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

win higher office? The notion is patently absurd. Generally, I'd agree that Kim, like Scott Weenie, is a politician who is primarily interested in her own advancement. But in this case, I think it's a principled stand. It's a very modest half-measure from a very careful and moderate politician.But coming from Jane Kim, I'm surprised and impressed.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

to be a hard-working progressive and get the unions and non profits to turn out their voters on her behalf - that's how she won last time.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

So you may be correct. But as already noted, Kim cannot outlaw background checks so this is really an empty gesture.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

gesture designed to mollify this group or that group? I mean, on a substantive basis has the Board passed anything at all within the past 20 years which has meaningfully impacted a large number of people's lives? They've given certain favored groups free shit like MUNI passes which I guess could count as "meaningful" but is there anything else beyond a few crumbs from the collective table?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

insure that businesses who hire felon's don't get sued.

If a rapist or embezzler gets hired, the city should indemnify the business against that person. Should be quite simple.

I did hiring at one time, I've hired ex-cons and it was never a problem. Hiring people who sold weed and need a break is OK, it isn't like hiring straight up felons.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

and murderer to work in her office. Let's see her put herself on the line like she's expecting everyone else too. As a matter of fact it'd be interesting to find out how many of the other usual suspects like Campos, Avalos, Mar etc.. have hired former felons to work for them.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

convicted felons. Ideally child molesters.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

Hiring low level fuck ups who grow up is one thing, hiring hardcore fuck ups is a whole other story.

I hired a few dozen people, it wasn't a big deal to hire pot criminals and other victims of petty government non sense and youth stupidity. I would never have hired anyone convicted of some pathological crime.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

It's just being extended to the private sector. As well it should. Once you've paid your debt to society, it's nobody's business.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

not a prospective employer's business? In your dreams.

Luckily employers don't have to ask the question anyway. They simply runa background check.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 8:29 am

You really don't pay much attention outside your bubble do you?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 12:49 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... does the term GRANDSTANDING ring a bell? Interesting that KIM is here again to save the day ... "The most important thing to remember is that this is not a hiring mandate,” Kim explained in an interview. " Sort of reminds me of the HEARINGS into POLICE INVESTIGATIONS that I could NOT even get KIM to see me ... and and and and . Mind you it is NOW December 13, 2013 and still NOT a PEEP from KIM'S office.

I hope the LGBT Gay Liaison position for the POLICE is NOT the same ... look at the videos and ask yourself ... where is the RESPECT, COMPASSION and HONESTY as attested to as provided by the "SAFE ZONE" signage at the POLICE STATIONS ... tripe, hype, or GRANDSTANDING ... I am still following up ... see videos.

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

Shall we seer HOW MUCH LONGER before I get called into KiM'S office to show evidence ...

Maybe HOW MUCH LONGER till I see the CHIEF of POLICE to show evidence ...

Maybe HOW MUCH LONGER till I get what I sunshined DPH, SFPD, etc for ...

Yes, Rigged Process, Grandstanding and NO ACCOMPLISHMENT still EQUAL FALSE HOPE and INHUMANITY ... what is the CONSEQUENCE?

Drink the ILLUSION, IGNORE the REALITY, and they will continue to do quite well ... look at OBAMA ... HOPE you like that CHANGE.

Same principle, different day, different MOUTH PIECE.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 8:46 am

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