The Los Angeles City Council instructed city attorneys Tuesday to draft an ordinance that would prohibit city and private employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal record until later in the hiring process.
The council voted 10-1 to support requiring city contractors and private employers with at least 10 workers to remove questions about criminal histories from job applications, and to prevent such questions from being asked until a conditional employment offer has been made.
After the City Attorney’s Office drafts the measure, it will be brought back to the full council for a vote.
The effort to remove the question — known as “ban the box” — is part of a nationwide movement aimed at giving formerly incarcerated people a better chance at obtaining employment.
Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo, Paul Krekorian and Felipe Fuentes were absent or did not vote on the issue.
Councilman Mitch Englander said he cast the dissenting vote because there did not seem to be very much information or “public outreach” done before the measure was brought to the council.
“This is a fairly new concept that a few municipalities have passed, so we don’t have real information, what some of the cause and effect has been from the legislation,” Englander told City News Service.
He said some business people he spoke to in his district “weren’t even aware that this was coming and so I’m just not comfortable that enough information and … input has been done on something so important.”
He said some business operators have cited concerns about the cost of going through “the entire hiring process,” then finding out at the end about information “they may be able to just find out in an application.”
Another issue raised was that private business operators ought to have the “ability to just ask,” especially if they must “entrust their employees with a lot more responsibilities and access to either their financial information or other sensitive documents.”
Englander noted that similar laws in other cities included exemptions for certain types of businesses, such as pharmaceutical companies, which deal with medication and have “access to sensitive patient information.”
“There are a number of municipalities that have carved out exemptions, and this proposed legislation didn’t have any of the exemptions that a lot of the other cities that have similar ordinances in place have created,” he said.
Supporters of the measure argue that people with criminal records have a harder time even getting considered for jobs because of questions on the topic being asked at the beginning of the application process.
President Barack Obama this month issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to no longer ask about criminal histories at the beginning of the hiring process.
New York, Chicago, San Francisco and 19 states have also adopted similar measures, according to aides for Councilman Curren Price, who chairs the Economic Development Committee that advanced the measure to the council.
—Staff and wire reports