Civil Rights Department Mediation Leads to Nearly $100K Settlement Over Alleged Violations of California’s Fair Chance Act
SACRAMENTO – The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) today announced a nearly $100,000 mediated settlement with the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District over alleged violations of California’s Fair Chance Act, which aims to protect Californians against unlawful employment discrimination based on past involvement with the criminal legal system. The settlement announced today is on behalf of an individual who had been employed with another fire protection district and subsequently lost employment after leaving to accept the new position, which was rescinded after a conditional offer of employment had been extended. As part of the agreement, the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District has committed to taking a range of proactive steps to prevent future employment discrimination on the basis of criminal history information.
“Everyone deserves a fair chance to make a living for themselves and their families,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish. “The Fair Chance Act provides important protections against discrimination that can help empower people to retake control of their lives, give back to their communities, and reintegrate into society. I applaud the individual who came forward to bring this case to our attention and the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District for coming to the table to make things right. This settlement is one of the largest of its kind and a victory for all our state’s residents.”
The settlement is the result of an investigation and mediation initiated by CRD as the result of a complaint filed earlier this year by an individual who had sought employment at the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District. The complaint alleged that the district unlawfully rescinded an offer without taking into account important mitigating factors, the nature of the offense, the time that had passed since the offense, and whether the offense was related to the job being sought. After initially offering the position to the applicant, the district allegedly unlawfully rescinded the offer based on the applicant’s response to a criminal history questionnaire. Under the Fair Chance Act, employers are required to consider an applicant’s criminal history on an individual basis, provide an opportunity for an applicant to respond to a withdrawn offer with evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances, and demonstrate that there is a direct and adverse relationship between the offense and the specific job duties.
More broadly, the Fair Chance Act generally prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about a job applicant’s conviction history before making a conditional job offer, requires specific procedures for considering an applicant’s criminal history after a conditional job offer, and limits convictions that employers can consider disqualifying to those that have a direct relationship with job responsibilities. For instance, blanket statements in job advertisements indicating that an employer will not consider anyone with a criminal history, such as “No Felons” or “Must Have Clean Record,” violate the law’s protections. In passing the Fair Chance Act, the Legislature recognized that nearly one in three adults in California have an arrest or conviction record that can significantly undermine their efforts to obtain gainful employment, which is a critical component of community reintegration and ultimately supports increased public safety.
As part of the settlement, the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District has agreed to take a range of corrective action, including to:
- Abide by all applicable federal, state, and local fair employment laws.
- Conduct a comprehensive review of the district’s anti-discrimination policies and, as necessary, revise them in accordance with the law.
- Train all managers, supervisors, and human resource professionals on anti-discrimination obligations, with a particular emphasis on requirements under the Fair Chance Act.
- Distribute information to all managers, supervisors, human resource professionals, and new employees on California’s protections under the Fair Chance Act.
- Pay $97,500 in compensation to the complainant for the alleged damages.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of employment discrimination based on criminal history information, CRD may be able to assist you through its complaint process. General information about CRD’s complaint process and how to file a complaint is available here. Additional information regarding rights under the Fair Chance Act is available here.
The case was mediated by Senior Attorney Mediator Bruce W. Carter. The matter was investigated by Jason Mendoza with CRD’s Enforcement Division. The complainant was represented by the Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak.
A copy of the settlement is available here.
CRD is the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws. Formerly known as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the mission of CRD is to protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-fund programs and activities, and from hate violence and human trafficking. For more information, visit calcivilrights.ca.gov.