Case: Killian v. West Contra Costa Unified School District

Lawsuit Results in a Fair Chance for Job Seekers With Prior Convictions

(L to R): Daniel Nesbit, Impact Fund, Law Fellow; Lindsay Nako, Impact Fund, Director of Litigation & Training; Tamisha Walker, Plaintiff Safe Return Project, Executive Director; Plaintiff Walter Killian; Rebekah Evenson, Bay Area Legal Aid, Director of Litigation & Advocacy

The Safe Return Project, a local organization of formerly incarcerated people and allies, together with Richmond resident Walter Killian, have reached a landmark settlement with West Contra Costa Unified School District that will make important changes to the District’s hiring practices and ensure job applicants with prior convictions have a fair chance at employment.

Earlier this year, the Impact Fund and Bay Area Legal Aid, representing Mr. Killian and the Safe Return Project, filed a lawsuit against the school district to help ensure qualified job applicants with past criminal convictions have the opportunity to demonstrate rehabilitation and address inaccurate information in their background reports.

The lawsuit alleged that West Contra Costa Unified School District failed to allow all applicants the opportunity to make these showings as required by the California Education Code, the District’s own administrative regulations, the California Constitution, and the City of Richmond’s “ban-the-box” ordinance.

In late 2016, the District denied Mr. Killian employment as a substitute custodian because of a 20-year-old conviction that he thought had been removed from his record. Mr. Killian decided to file suit to prevent what happened to him from happening to others. Starting in June 2019, the District will no longer ask about prior convictions on its initial job application.