Posted on 12/09/2016

‘Ban the Box’ ordinance will require employers to remove questions about criminal history from job applications.

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today signed into law the “Fair Chance Initiative,” an ordinance that restricts employers from asking job applicants about criminal convictions until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

"People who have served their time deserve an opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones, and rebuild their lives with integrity through hard work,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The Fair Chance Initiative opens up new opportunities for Angelenos who have been incarcerated — giving them a chance to redefine themselves. I thank Councilmember Curren Price for his tireless advocacy on an issue of critical importance to thousands of our residents.”

The ordinance will apply to all city contractors and private employers with ten or more employees. Exemptions will apply for fields such as law enforcement and child care.

"I proposed the Fair Chance Initiative two years ago because for far too long, there has been discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record," said Councilmember Price. "I personally have met individuals who have been haunted by past convictions and no matter how hard they try, are unable to get their lives on track. I’m encouraged for the future of persons with prior criminal convictions who will have a greater opportunity to rejoin society, gain back their dignity and self-worth, and create a better life for themselves and their families."

An estimated one in four adult Californians has an arrest or conviction record on file with the state, which creates significant employment barriers. Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals identify employment as their biggest hurdle to successful reentry. Research has also shown that one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce recidivism and make communities safer is to provide employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals. While the California state recidivism rate is 65 percent, the recidivism rate of individuals placed in jobs shortly after release is estimated to range from 3 to 8 percent.

The passage of the ordinance caps a series of City-led reforms to eliminate systemic bias against individuals who have completed their sentences in the criminal justice system.

In 2015, the Mayor established an Office of Reentry, which is now working in partnership with Caltrans to employ more than 1,300 formerly incarcerated people over the next three years.

Earlier this year, Mayor Garcetti signed an executive directive instructing City departments to prioritize L.A.’s most underemployed communities — including veterans, the formerly incarcerated and disconnected youth — in the hiring of more than 5,000 employees over the next three years. 

The Mayor also launched the City’s first Blue Ribbon Commission on Employment Equity this year to help create more opportunities for formerly incarcerated Angelenos and others who have been historically disconnected from the job market.

On Dec. 2, Mayor Garcetti hosted the City’s first Fair Chance Hiring Fair to give formerly incarcerated Angelenos the second chances they need to find good-paying jobs and provide for themselves and their families. The event attracted more than 50 employers and resulted in over 100 job offers to participants. It was hosted by the newly-created Blue Ribbon Commission on Employment Equity, Los Angeles Trade Technical College and Uber — and attended by both Councilmember Price and Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer.

Mayor Garcetti championed criminal justice reform and equal opportunity for previously incarcerated individuals in a commentary co-authored with Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City in GOVERNING magazine in June.