Consistent with a national trend, the Los Angeles City Council’s Economic Development Committee voted last week in favor of a new law prohibiting most employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s possible criminal history until an initial job offer is made and allowing applicants to appeal an adverse decision.  The proposed law, known as the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (Ban the Box), will next be heard by the Entertainment and Facilities Committee and if approved, would then be considered by the full City Council.

Referred to as a “ban the box” law, the proposed law seeks to ban the “check box” or other questions on a job application regarding criminal convictions and prohibit employers from inquiring about such convictions by any other means until a conditional employment offer is made.  Businesses located in or doing business in the city, having at least 10 employees (including the owner and managers) would have to comply.

Under the proposed law, employers wanting to rescind a job offer after learning of an applicant’s criminal history would have to issue a written report showing linkage between the applicant’s criminal history and risks inherent in the duties in the position sought and provide the report to the applicant, after which the applicant can appeal the decision by providing the employer with mitigating information or evidence of the history’s inaccuracy.  Violations would carry a $500 penalty for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 for a third offense.

Employers would have to include in job postings that qualified applicants with criminal histories (one or more criminal misdemeanor or felony convictions for which the person has been placed on probation, fined, imprisoned or paroled) would be considered.  Violations of job posting requirements carry a $500 fine.

California state and local governments are already prohibited from requesting criminal background information until it is determined that the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position.  In addition, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council is considering regulations that would prohibit an employer from taking into account an individual’s criminal history in employment decisions if an “adverse impact” on individuals in protected classes would result.