Most businesses in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County would be barred from excluding job applicants with past criminal records during the hiring process under a proposal backed unanimously on Tuesday, Feb. 28, by the Board of Supervisors.
The board voted unanimously to direct its staff to draft a comprehensive Fair Chance ordinance, which would codify and enhance a similar state law that was enacted in 2018. County staff were directed to return to the board with a draft ordinance in 90 days for further consideration.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Hilda Solis, noted that many employers already adhere to regulations that prevent them from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history or considering it in the hiring process, but “we still have a long way to go making it real for every job seeker.” Mitchell noted that “more than a quarter of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed on average.” Those people “are more likely to experience homelessness, live in poverty or deal with health issues,” she said.
Their motion recognized the existence of the state’s 2018 Fair Chance Act, but said there have been shortcomings in its implementation and enforcement. It noted that some other jurisdictions have enacted their own local requirements to provide protections for job-seekers with arrests or convictions on their records.
The board’s vote Tuesday directed county staff to return in 90 days with a draft ordinance with similar protections that would apply to all employers with five or more employees in unincorporated areas, or for employers with five or more employees with county contracts or leases. Specifically, the county’s proposal would require employers to make it clear in job solicitations and advertisements that qualified applicants with arrest or conviction records will be considered. It would also bar employers from asking applicants to voluntarily disclose information about their criminal history. Employers would also be barred from considering in hiring decisions an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, participation in a diversion program, convictions that have been dismissed or expunged, motor vehicle offenses, juvenile justice adjudications or convictions more than seven years old.
The proposal would include various other requirements for employers and would establish penalties of $500 for a first violation, $1,000 for a second violation and $2,000 for a third and subsequent violations. At least half of those fines would be awarded to the affected job applicant.
Supervisor Janice Hahn also asked that the ordinance apply specifically to the county’s own hiring processes.
“I think this is a good first step as we really try to be so much more inclusive and less discriminatory in how we allow people to apply for good paying jobs,” Hahn said.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger introduced a “friendly amendment” to the proposal calling on county staff to also consult with local business organizations, nonprofits and other stakeholder groups when drafting the ordinance, while also calling for reports every two years on the impact of the policy and its effect on recidivism.