LA County Aims to Increase Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

Ordinance that would prevent most businesses in unincorporated areas of the county from excluding job applicants with past criminal records during the hiring process. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to draft a Fair Chance ordinance that would prevent most businesses in unincorporated areas of the county from excluding job applicants with past criminal records during the hiring process. 

The proposal was authored by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis, who noted that many employers already adhere to regulations preventing them from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history or considering it in the hiring process. However, they emphasized that more needs to be done to make this practice a reality for every job seeker.

“This motion is about dignity,” Solis said. “There is research that supports that when people with lived experience get employment, it reduces their risk for recidivism and they have more drive and loyalty to their employer, which results in staying at companies longer. These are also the same individuals who give back to their communities as engaged taxpayers. Everyone deserves a fair chance. That’s what this ordinance is about.” 

According to Mitchell, over 25% of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed on average, which can lead to increased rates of homelessness, poverty, and health issues. While the state’s 2018 Fair Chance Act recognized these issues, there have been shortcomings in its implementation and enforcement. As a result, some jurisdictions including the city of Los Angeles have enacted their own local requirements to provide protections for job-seekers with arrests or convictions on their records.

“For system-impacted job seekers, the promise of a fair chance is a critical opportunity to pursue a better life,” Mitchell. “We have a long way to go to making this real for every Angeleno, and as the largest employer in the region, the County has an obligation to lead by example and ensure our hiring practices are equitable and transparent.”

The proposed ordinance would require employers to make it clear in job solicitations and advertisements that qualified applicants with arrest or conviction records will be considered. Employers would also be barred from asking applicants to voluntarily disclose information about their criminal history and from considering various types of offenses when making hiring decisions. The proposal would include penalties for violations and at least half of those fines would be awarded to affected job applicants.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger introduced a “friendly amendment” calling on county staff to consult with local business organizations, nonprofits, and other stakeholder groups when drafting the ordinance while also providing reports every two years on the policy’s impact and its effect on recidivism.

County staff were directed by the board to return with a draft ordinance within 90 days for further consideration. If passed, this new Fair Chance ordinance could provide greater opportunities for those with past criminal records seeking employment in Los Angeles County.

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