The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that prohibits employers and housing providers from initially asking applicants if they were ever convicted of a felony.
That application box is blamed for creating daunting barriers for ex-offenders that officials say can prove disastrous for their chances of living a life free of crime and finding a prosperous career.
“In our society we often talk about how an individual has paid their debt once they have served their time. But it is often not true,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who introduced the legislation. “We find that individuals, even after they have served their time, live with their conviction or arrest history for the rest of their life.”
The “ban the box” initiative has become a growing nationwide movement taking aim at what has been viewed as a practice that impairs public safety and wastes taxpayer dollars. Cities such as Philadelphia; Newark, N.J.; Seattle; and Buffalo, N.Y. have banned the box for private employers. San Francisco has implemented the ban for government jobs and has now extended it to the private sector.
The law prohibits a housing provider or a business with 20 or more employees from making an upfront inquiry about the criminal history of an applicant. Such an inquiry would be permitted only after the first interview or after a conditional offer of employment. Additionally, some criminal history would be off-limits, such as arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction, expunged convictions and a conviction older than seven years.
The Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement and the Human Rights Commission would investigate complaints and annually report outcomes.
The proposal had broad support, including from District Attorney George Gascón, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
San Francisco has banned the box.