California Civil Rights Department files suit against grocer over hiring practices 

The Ralphs on The Old Road Road in Castaic. 110222. Dan Watson/The Signal

The California Civil Rights Department filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Ralphs Grocery Company on Thursday over alleged violations of California’s Fair Chance Act, which resulted in the unlawful denial of employment opportunities to hundreds of applicants at grocery store locations across Southern California, according to a department news release. 

There are currently five Ralphs locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, including three within the city of Santa Clarita, one in Castaic and one in Stevenson Ranch. 

The Fair Chance Act was enacted to reduce barriers to employment and support community reintegration for people who have been previously involved in the criminal legal system, the release stated. In the lawsuit, the department alleges that Ralphs has ignored and continues to ignore the law’s requirements, including by screening out otherwise qualified applicants on the basis of criminal histories that do not have any adverse relationship with the duties of the job for which they were applying.  

As part of the lawsuit, the department is seeking monetary damages for the workers who were denied jobs or lost jobs as a result of Ralphs’ screening practices and a court order to require Ralphs to come into compliance with the Fair Chance Act. 

“The Fair Chance Act is about giving every Californian an opportunity to thrive,” said Kevin Kish, director of the department, in the release. “When roughly 70 million Americans have some sort of record, policies like those employed by Ralphs aren’t just discriminatory and against California law, they don’t make sense. We can’t expect people to magically gain the economic and housing stability needed to reintegrate into their communities and stay out of the criminal legal system without a fair chance at steady employment, particularly when the job has nothing to do with a past offense. Ralphs has continued to unlawfully deny jobs to qualified candidates and that’s why we’re taking them to court.” 

The Fair Chance Act, which went into effect in 2018, aims to combat discrimination and ultimately enhance public safety by reducing undue barriers to employment for people who have been previously involved in the criminal legal system, according to the release. The law 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.

Under California law, the Civil Rights Department is tasked with investigating and prosecuting violations of the Fair Chance Act and other civil rights laws. 

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