On December 9, 2016, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law a Ban the Box ordinance called the Fair Chance Initiative that requires employers to remove questions about criminal history from job applications and restricts them from asking job applicants about criminal convictions until after a conditional offer of employment. The law takes effect January 22, 2017.
The Fair Chance Initiative will apply to all city contractors and private employers with ten or more employees, except for exempted fields such as law enforcement and child care. The Ban the Box law also impacts employers in other ways including notice and posting requirements, potential changes to the employment application, and specific adverse action procedures.
“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,” Mayor Garcetti stated in a news release about the LA Ban the Box law. “The Fair Chance Initiative opens up new opportunities for Angelenos who have been incarcerated — giving them a chance to redefine themselves.”
According to the news release, an estimated one in four adult Californians has an arrest or conviction record on file with the state, and studies show up to 70 percent of ex-offenders say finding a job is their biggest hurdle to successful reentry. While the California state recidivism rate is 65 percent, individuals finding work shortly after release have a recidivism rate of 3 to 8 percent.
“Ban the Box” refers to the question on an employment application about past criminal record and a box for the applicant to respond by checking yes or no, and sometimes with details. Ban the Box supporters seek to remove the check box from applications and delay criminal history questions so ex-offenders are first judged by their knowledge, skills, and abilities to do a job.
The Ban the Box movement is rapidly spreading across the United States. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 24 states and over 150 cities and counties have Ban the Box laws to help remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with criminal records so they can be judged first on their knowledge, skills, abilities, and qualifications to do the job.
In August 2016, ESR News reported that the White House announced a new round of signers of the Obama administration’s Fair Chance Business Pledge to help job candidates with criminal histories to return to the workforce. U.S. employers who have pledged to Ban the Box include Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Uber, and Walmart.
The fact that Ban the Box is becoming more the rule than the exception when screening employees is the number one trend in the Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) 10th annual ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends’ for 2017 selected by ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. The complete list of trends is at www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends.