The “ban the box ” campaign is a national push to prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal records during the early stages of the hiring process. Twelve states, as well as 70 cities and counties, have implemented “ban the box” legislation. California joined these states in late 2013 with AB 218. Under AB 218, no public sector employer may ask about a potential employees’ criminal record during the early stages of the hiring process. On November 30th, 2016 the Los Angeles city council passed an ordinance to comply with AB 218. While losing the ability to ask a potential employee about criminal histories may cause concern within the business community, the details of this ordinance will likely mitigate these concerns.
The implementation of the Los Angeles City Council’s ban the box ordinance changes the timing of employers’ ability to ask a potential employee about their criminal history. For an employer to ask about a potential employees’ criminal history, the employer must wait until after they conditionally offered a potential employee to conduct a background check and ask about their criminal history. If the employer at this time wishes to rescind their offer, they must provide a written report to a prospective employee. These steps are supposed to allow for potential employees to be given an opportunity to explain their criminal past. While this step may elongate the hiring process, it will provide certain qualified potential employees the opportunity to explain a previous conviction.
Not all Los Angeles employers will be affected. Only companies with 10 or more employees and those with city contracts will be forced to abide by this new rule. While this particular ordnance is to be implemented within the city limits of Los Angeles, it will not affect hiring practices in other cities or counties within the state. Yet these counties or cities may have their own ordinance that is designed to abide by AB 218.
Los Angeles City is not the only city in the Los Angeles metropolitan area that has passed “ban the box” legislation. The Pasadena and Compton City Councils have both passed ordinance with the same effects as the Los Angeles City ordinance. However, no other cities or counties within the Los Angeles Metro have passed “ban the box” ordinances other than the ones listed above.
Given that this is a national movement and the implementation of this ordinance, effective as of January 22, 2017, it would be prudent for employers to reevaluate their hiring process and look to implement a process that complies with this particular ordnance. If an employer is unsure about their hiring practice, they should seek qualified legal assistants in order to avoid any causes of actions for potential violations of this ordinance.