On January 22, 2017, an important new Los Angeles employment provision – the Fair Chance Initiative Ordinance – took effect within the city. The new ordinance, passed last December, adds significant restrictions on the types of questions that area employers can ask prospective employees, and it also prohibits many employers from conducting a criminal background check prior to making a provisional offer of employment.

New Ordinance’s General Provisions

Los Angeles employers should familiarize themselves with the new ordinance. Generally speaking, it:

•  Applies to all private employers with more than 10 employees located or doing business in the City of Los Angeles

•  Covers employees who generally perform “at least two hours of work on average each week” in the City

•  Allows exceptions for city and local government departments, state or federal government units, and any employers that are required by law to inquire about past criminal convictions

•  Provides additional exceptions for employment positions that are required by law to be held by persons without specified criminal convictions

•  Provides exceptions for positions requiring the person employed to possess or use a firearm in the course of the employment

•  Covers any individual who submits an application for work performed in the City, including temporary, seasonal, commission, contracted, and even unpaid training positions

Employers Must Take Certain Affirmative Actions

The new ordinance also requires that employers modify their employment advertising and job posting in particular ways. For example, after the effective date of the ordinance, covered employers must:

•  Indicate in all advertisements and solicitations, whether they be internal or external, that the employer will consider qualified applications that reveal criminal histories in a manner that is consistent with the ordinance

•  Post a notice calling attention to the new ordinance in a conspicuous spot within every workplace and job site in the city

Conditional Offers of Employment

Perhaps the most important part of the new ordinance is the requirement that covered employers refrain from asking applicants about their criminal history until after a conditional offer is made. Once that conditional offer has been made, a covered employer is permitted to perform a criminal background check. If such a background check discloses criminal history information unfavorable to the applicant, the employer is not permitted to withdraw the offer until and unless the employer has completed a written assessment that effectively links the specific aspects of the criminal history with risks inherent in the job sought by the applicant. In making its determination, the employer must consider various factors, including the following:

•  The nature and gravity of the offense

•  The time that has elapsed since the conviction

•  The nature of the job that is sought by the applicant

“Fair Chance Process”

Before the covered employer takes any adverse action against the applicant, they must also engage in the “Fair Chance Process.” Generally speaking, that process includes:

•  Providing the applicant written notification of the adverse employment action

•  Providing a copy of the written assessment described above

•  Providing such other and further documentation that would support the proposed adverse employment action.

As to this last step in the process, the employer must allow the applicant five business days to respond and provide additional information or documentation regarding the accuracy of the criminal history results and to detail any important mitigating factors. If the applicant provides correcting or mitigating information, the employer must conduct another written assessment and inform the applicant of its decision with a copy of that new written assessment.

Employers Should Review Their Existing Policies

In light of these new requirements, all Los Angeles employers should review their HR policies to determine what changes, if any, need to be made. The penalties for non-compliance with the new law do not kick in until July 1, 2017, but they will be monetarily punitive: $500 for the first violation, $1,000 for the second, and $2,000 for subsequent violations.

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