Los Angeles Poised to Ban the Box For Most Private Employers

The Los Angeles City Council has overwhelmingly approved a “ban the box” ordinance prohibiting any employer in the city with 10 or more employees from asking about a prospective employee’s criminal history until a conditional employment offer has been made. The ordinance also would apply to city contractors and employment agencies.

While the measure still requires the signature of Mayor Eric Garcetti, this is seen as a formality. Garcetti has previously voiced strong support of the ordinance in saying, “Prejudging applicants for jobs makes the playing field unequal and doesn’t allow people to ‘run their race’ and succeed.” Los Angeles reportedly has the highest per-capita number of parolees of any city in the country.

Even after an employer is permitted to seek criminal history information, the ordinance requires the employer to provide a justification for why a job offer is being rescinded if it denies employment after learning about an applicant’s criminal record.

The Los Angeles “ban the box” ordinance goes well beyond California law, which only prohibits state and local government employers from asking criminal history questions on initial job applications. It also would mean that four of the nation’s five largest cities will have broad laws limiting criminal history inquiries in the hiring process, as Los Angeles will join New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia with “ban the box” laws that apply to all or most private employers.

In all, more than 100 municipalities have passed “ban the box” ordinances. States that have passed ban the box laws affecting private employers include:

  • Connecticut;
  • Hawaii;
  • Illinois;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Minnesota;
  • New Jersey;
  • Oregon;
  • Rhode Island; and
  • Vermont.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated in an Enforcement Guidance that before an employer rejects an applicant with a criminal record, it should give the applicant a chance to explain the circumstances and why he or she should not be excluded from consideration.

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