New Los Angeles ‘Ban the Box’ Ordinance

Labor and Employment

Action Item: Los Angeles employers should review their hiring process, including job applications, to ensure compliance with a new law that limits inquiries of an applicant’s criminal history starting January 1, 2017, or risk being subject to administrative fines and/or penalties after July 1, 2017.

The Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (“Ban the Box”) becomes effective January 1, 2017. This ordinance limits private employers in Los Angeles, California from inquiring into or seeking a job applicant’s criminal history unless, and until, a conditional offer of employment has been made to that individual. Ban the Box generally refers to a check box employers often include on job applications that asks whether a job applicant has prior criminal convictions.

The ordinance applies to employers that are located in, or doing business in, the City of Los Angeles, and that employ 10 or more employees, including the owner or owners and management and supervisorial employees. Covered employees include any individual who performs at least two hours of work on average each week within the geographic boundaries of the City of Los Angeles.

The ordinance generally provides that on any application for employment covered employers may not include any question that seeks disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history. Employers also may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history unless, and until, it has made the applicant a conditional offer of employment. Exceptions are made where an employer is required by law to obtain information regarding an applicant’s convictions, the applicant would be required to possess or use a firearm, an individual who has been convicted of a crime is prohibited by law from holding the position sought, or an employer is prohibited by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.

An employer cannot withdraw or cancel a conditional offer of employment or otherwise fail or refuse to hire the applicant based on the applicant’s criminal history without first providing that person a Fair Chance Process. The ordinance provides a detailed procedure for this process that includes written notification to the applicant of the proposed adverse action including a written assessment supporting the action, an opportunity for the applicant to respond with information and/or documentation, and a written reassessment of the proposed action based on the applicant’s response. These records must be retained for three years.

Employers also are required to (1) state in all advertisements for covered employment that they will consider qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the ordinance, and (2) post a notice informing applicants of the provisions of the ordinance.

Penalties and administrative fines for violations of the ordinance range from $500 to $2,000 per violation and will apply after July 1, 2017. An applicant or employee alleging a violation of the ordinance must bring their claim to the Department of Public Works within one year of the violation.

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