Groundbreaking law creates a new national model for ‘Ban the Box' legislation by prohibiting discrimination in public and private employment and affordable housing.

On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, Mayor Edwin Lee signed the Fair Chance Ordinance into law. With the passage of this ordinance, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) celebrates the success of its three year public awareness campaign to reduce barriers for persons with arrest and conviction records.

“This victory is a testament to HRC’s on-going commitment to eliminating inequities and promoting fairness and opportunity for all San Francisco residents,” stated Commission Chair Susan Christian. “As the Commission celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, we are excited to honor the passage of the Fair Chance Ordinance as another important civil rights milestone in our history. We are grateful to Mayor Lee, Supervisor Kim and Supervisor Cohen for their leadership on this legislation.”

Since 2010, the HRC has been working with community organizations, city partners, employers and housing providers to facilitate a local conversation on reentry and human rights. On April 14, 2011, the Commission voted unanimously to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor urging them to pass legislation to address the lifelong collateral consequences experienced by persons with arrest and conviction records in accessing housing and employment. Following this historic vote, the HRC conducted a public awareness campaign and “Best Practices” trainings in order to educate stakeholders on the disproportionate impact that the overbroad usage of criminal background checks has on communities of color.

“During the course of our public awareness campaign, we collected valuable information from stakeholders throughout San Francisco. Through community forums, one on one meetings, and the HRC’s hearing on the ‘Human Rights Impact of the War on Drugs,’ we heard from San Franciscans that reforming the way criminal background checks are used was crucial to people being able to live and work in this city. Advocacy for this legislation fits in with HRC’s proud tradition of advancing human dignity and civil rights for people not otherwise protected by law. We know this legislation will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” said Director Theresa Sparks.

As enacted, the Fair Chance Ordinance prohibits pre-interview conviction history inquiries by private employers with over 20 employees, by contractors with city contracts over $5,000, and any residential building that has received funding from the City. The law also requires consideration of the relevance of applicants’ convictions, the recency of the convictions, and applicants’ evidence of rehabilitation since being convicted. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in support of this ordinance on February 4, 2014. The HRC and the Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement are charged with implementing the ordinance.