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BERKELEY, CA, Dec. 12, 2016 – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed legislation late Friday requiring employers to remove questions about past convictions from job applications and delay conviction inquiries until after an offer of employment is extended. The landmark “ban the box” measure—sponsored by City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. and backed by a coalition led by A New Way of Life and L.A. VOICE—is one of the strongest fair-chance hiring laws in the nation, allowing job seekers to be judged first on their qualifications and skill, not only on their records.
With the addition of Los Angeles, more than one in four U.S. workers is now covered by a ban-the-box law that extends not just to public-sector employers but to private employers as well. Los Angeles becomes the 15th locality in the nation to adopt a private-sector fair-chance hiring policy—joining nine states and major cities such as Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Nationwide, 24 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted fair-chance hiring protections. In 2016 alone, five new states embraced fair-chance hiring (Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin); two states expanded their laws to cover private-sector employers (Connecticut, Vermont); and 25 new cities and counties joined the fold. Notably, more than half of the new local policies were adopted in conservative southern states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The ban-the-box movement was launched in 2003 by a group of formerly incarcerated people convened by the grassroots membership organization All of Us or None. Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project, based in South Central Los Angeles, attended the founding meeting at which the movement was conceived over a decade ago. Reflecting on this latest victory, Ms. Burton states, “Today, I am proud to celebrate, along with my colleagues at All of Us or None, the passage of a comprehensive Fair Chance Initiative in the City of Los Angeles. This is a great day in the struggle for liberation, so we pause to celebrate. But our fight is not over.”
“By passing the Fair Chance Initiative, our city reaffirms its vow to struggle until all are included and none are left behind, left out, or thrown away. Banning the box makes economic and political sense,” said Reverend Zachary Hoover, executive director of L.A. Voice, a federation of 55 churches, synagogues, and mosques in Los Angeles County and member of PICO National Network. “More importantly, it speaks to our belief in the potential of every Angeleno, no matter their past, to seek and find redemption and rehabilitation—to embark on a new journey, as Pope Francis says. Just as the father welcomed the prodigal son home with a feast, so too do we declare L.A. a city of joyful returns—and one with a greater opportunity to work and provide for ourselves and our families, even when we’ve made mistakes,” said Reverend Hoover.
Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, provided testimony and assistance to support the Los Angeles initiative. “NELP is proud to partner with community leaders who have led the movement to challenge the racial biases of the criminal justice system and lift up the dignity of the 70 million people with records in the United States, said Ms. Rodriguez. “Today, we congratulate Angelenos for dismantling job barriers and providing the hope of economic opportunity. In 2017, let’s hold on to this vision of solidarity, in which all people—no matter of their past record—are recognized for their humanity, talent, and potential.”
To help advocates and policymakers take advantage of the growing momentum, NELP provides numerous resources, such as a comprehensive fair-chance guide that details all state and local fair-chance hiring laws and policies across the country.
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.