Ban the Box: What You Need to Know

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I sat down today with our Community Organizer, Amber Rose Howard, to talk about “Ban the Box,” officially known as the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. As its name suggests, the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance is a policy that sets in place a procedure for employers to follow that would guarantee more fairness in the hiring process for people with conviction histories.

“The Box” refers to the question that is found on most job applications that inquires about conviction histories. Statistics have indicated that those who disclose conviction histories are 50% less likely to move forward for gainful employment.

“Those with conviction histories such as myself know that the application is going to be shoved to the bottom or thrown out because the past conviction is essentially an automatic disqualifier” says Amber Rose.

“Policy won’t change society. But policy forces a change in habit. A change in habit can influence attitude, and then we have an opportunity to change the hearts of people. I’m hoping that employers and people in general see that just because someone is formerly convicted does not mean that they are a bad person or that they are a risk. I hope that as society we start to welcome people with former convictions as normal human beings. We have a 60%+ recidivism rate in California, and it’s because people are not being welcomed back into the community. Not only are people being turned away from jobs, but there is a powerful stigma surrounding those with conviction histories.”

The Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance passed on November 30th, 2016. The City of Los Angeles enforces the most progressive form of the ordinance – it’s illegal to inquire about a person’s conviction unless it comes after a conditional offer of employment in Los Angeles. Statewide, it simply bans the question on an application but doesn’t prohibit any inquiries during the interview process.

“I hope there is a psycho-social benefit to the passing of the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance in addition to there being a fiscal, economic plus,” says Amber Rose. “Everybody deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

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    Eric Villalpando

    Eric Villalpando is the 2016-2017 Ignatian Service Corps volunteer at A New Way of Life