Last month, Los Angeles joined a growing group of U.S. cities taking steps to end hiring discrimination based on a job applicant's criminal history. The "Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring" ordinance took effect on January 22 and is arguably the strongest and most progressive so-called "Ban the Box" law in the country.
70 million Americans - one in every three adults in the United States - has a criminal record of some sort. For many of these people, however, the cost of their crimes imposes a death sentence on their ability to find work.
Ban the Box legislation is an incredibly important tool in fighting black underemployment by removing employers' ability to use criminal history as a proxy for discrimination. However, it only attacks a symptom of the problem of race discrimination in hiring: criminal history is not the only way that employers use "race-neutral" criteria as a proxy to discriminate against black job seekers. A holistic approach that acknowledges the omnipresent role that the black criminality myth continues to play in employment discrimination - and daily life in general - is necessary.
On June 10th, the New York City Council voted with near unanimity to break down a barrier faced by jobseekers with criminal histories by passing the Fair Chance Act. At its core, this legislation prevents a person's criminal record from acting as an arbitrary ban to employment by forbidding employers from discussing criminal convictions during the application and interview process.