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Los Angeles Adopts “Ban the Box” Ordinance Prohibiting Pre-Offer Inquiries about Applicants’ Criminal Histories

January 30, 2017

The “Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (Ban the Box)” Ordinance, which went into effect on January 22, 2017, bars private employers in the City of Los Angeles who have at least 10 employees from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment is made. The L.A. Ban the Box Ordinance is similar to laws adopted across the country.[1] (See Connecticut Governor Signs "Ban-the-Box" Law Prohibiting Questions About Criminal History on Initial Employment Applications; Mayor de Blasio Signs "Ban the Box" Law Prohibiting Pre-Offer Inquiries By New York City Employers Regarding Applicants' Criminal Histories; New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Enact "Ban the Box" Laws Prohibiting Application Questions About Criminal History).

The L.A. Ban the Box Ordinance applies broadly to any individual who submits an application or other documentation for work performed in the City of Los Angeles, including temporary or seasonal work, part-time work, contracted work, contingent work, temporary work, work through an employment agency, or any form of vocational or educational training, with or without pay. The L.A. Ban the Box Ordinance also:


“Fair Chance” Process

Once an employer obtains information about an applicant’s criminal history, the employer cannot take any adverse action against the candidate (i.e., by withdrawing a conditional offer) until the employer conducts a “Fair Chance” process, which includes:

Any employer which uses an outside agency to conduct criminal background checks must also follow the pre-adverse action and adverse action notice requirements of both federal and state Fair Credit Reporting Act laws.

Notice and Record Retention

Employers must also post a notice about the L.A. Ban the Box Ordinance in a conspicuous place at every workplace, job site, or location in the City of Los Angeles that is under the employer’s control and is visited by job applicants. A copy of the notice must be given to any labor union that represents the employer’s employees.

Employers must retain all records relating to a candidate’s application and any written assessment or reassessment for three years.

Retaliation

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge, reduce the compensation of, or take any adverse employment action against any employee who: complains to the City about the employer’s compliance with the Ordinance; opposes any practice made unlawful by the Ordinance; participates in proceedings related to the Ordinance; or seeks to enforce his or her rights under the Ordinance. 

Enforcement and Penalties

There is a six month grace period, until July 1, 2017, before penalties and fines will be imposed. During the grace period, the DAA will only issue written warnings. After July 1, 2017, an employer may be fined up to $500, $1,000, and $2,000, respectively, for its first, second, and third violations of the Ordinance. Fines for violations of the law’s notice and recordkeeping requirements are capped at $500 per violation.

An individual may bring a civil action against an employer for violation of the Ordinance, provided that the individual has first reported the alleged violation to the DAA within one year of its occurrence. The DAA will establish rules governing the administrative process for investigation and enforcement of alleged violations. 

Exemptions

The requirements of this Ordinance will not apply:

Next Steps

Private employers in Los Angeles should review their employment applications and advertisements (including any electronic versions), and remove any questions about criminal history. Employers should also train all managers who are involved in the hiring process about the requirements of the new law.

Please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys if you have any questions about the L.A. Ban the Box Ordinance.

[1] On a related issue, the state of California also recently adopted legislation, effective January 1, 2017, prohibiting employers from inquiring into an applicant’s juvenile convictions or using such convictions as a factor in determining any condition of employment.