Politics

LA City Council votes to 'ban the box' asking about job applicants' criminal histories

File: General view of outreach materials are seen at a press conference for a
File: General view of outreach materials are seen at a press conference for a "ban the box" petition delivery to the White House on Oct. 26, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Larry French/Getty Images for ColorOfChange.o

An ordinance to "ban the box" asking about job applicants' criminal histories on application forms was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday. It applies to L.A. businesses with 10 or more employees, as well as city contractors, and it could impact hundreds of thousands of people in L.A., according to Councilman Curren Price.

"We've found that when that box is checked, it really diminishes the opportunities for employment," Price told KPCC.

Price was the council member leading the charge on this ordinance. Businesses can still ask about an applicant's criminal history — but not until a conditional job offer is made, allowing the prospective employee to explain what happened, according to Price.

"We think it's important because it would help expand the potential workforce, give a second chance for those that have served their time. It's unfair that they've served their time, and then they continue to be punished by not being able to find employment," Price said.

Other cities and businesses have already adopted similar policies, Price noted, including large companies like Uber and Target. Price said that it has been suggested that 50 percent of those who check the box are automatically eliminated from consideration.

There has been some resistance from businesses, Price said, but he added that he believes it's because they aren't aware how the program is going to work.

"We want to work closely with the business community. There's going to be a six month grace period so that everyone understands what's expected and how this new process is going to work. We want to be fair, but we want to do something that's going to be effective as well," Price said.

The ordinance will come back to the Council in a week for another consideration due to the vote not being unanimous, but Price said that is considered a formality. They believe the mayor will sign it and Price hopes that it will become law by the beginning of the new year.