California’s seven-year rule and the date of parole

, ,

When it comes to criminal records, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does not place any time limit on reporting criminal convictions. No matter how long ago the conviction occurred, it is reportable under the FCRA. Most states follow this rule, but several states, including California, do not.

California limits reporting criminal records involving the conviction of a crime from the “date of disposition, release, or parole” that predate the report by more than seven years. In cases where the subject was paroled after serving time in prison, it is essential to correctly determine the “date of parole” for purposes of applying the seven-year rule. Is the “date of parole” when the subject is released from prison and starts parole or the date that parole ends? A recent opinion by the California Court of Appeal resolved that question.

The California state court case is pending in the Orange County Superior Court dealing with the issue of whether a consumer reporting agency (CRA) is prohibited from disclosing a criminal conviction to a prospective employer if it has been more than seven years since the date of parole. In 2011, the plaintiff was convicted, released from prison, and placed on parole. In 2020, Amazon offered the plaintiff a job in Sacramento. The defendant, a CRA for Amazon, provided a background report to Amazon revealing the plaintiff’s criminal conviction. Amazon then withdrew its job offer. Because the plaintiff’s 2011 conviction predated the 2020 report by more than seven years, he filed a complaint alleging the CRA violated California’s seven-year rule.

The CRA challenged the plaintiff’s complaint by asserting that his parole ended in 2014, which predated the 2020 report by less than seven years, arguing that under California law, “the term ‘parole’ refers to the end of the parole period,” and it could not be liable to the plaintiff for violating the seven-year rule. However, the Superior Court disagreed with the CRA’s position and stated that under California law, the “date of parole” refers to the start date of parole, not the end date. The CRA appealed the court’s decision but to no avail. The Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court’s decision that the “date of parole” refers to the start date. The plaintiff can continue pursuing his complaint against the CRA.