The Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) is extremely disappointed with the Los Angeles City Council’s decision to pursue the “Ban the Box” Ordinance, which would force employers of 10 or more employees to remove criminal history questions from job applications. It would also ban employers from asking questions related to an applicant’s criminal history before a conditional offer of employment has been made.

The ordinance places costly burdens and restrictions on employers. Many small businesses simply cannot afford to invest a significant amount of time in interviewing a candidate whose criminal record would exclude them from being considered for the job.

By forbidding employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until late in the hiring process, the ordinance forces businesses to waste valuable time on interviewing candidates that do not qualify for the position.

 A “Ban the Box” Ordinance takes basic components of operating a business out of the hands of owners and operators. Instead, the city has sought a one-size-fits-all approach that could hurt the economic strength of our communities.

Under this ordinance, businesses will be faced with excessive costs and onerous fines. The Bureau of Contract Administration (BCA) recommendation includes a $500 fine to employers who fail to retain applicant documentation from the past three years. Businesses will face undue administrative costs over this unrealistic record-keeping requirement.

The BCA’s recommendation also includes fines up to $2,000 if the employer fails to comply with removing criminal history questions from job applications. The proposed penalty schedule will award up to $2,000 per aggrieved party. The costs businesses will incur under this heavily flawed ordinance are monumental. It will damage the economic vitality of our communities, especially for small businesses.

VICA urges the City Attorney’s office to engage in further dialogue with businesses and stakeholders. VICA opposes the ordinance, but urges the City Attorney’s office to add common sense language to the draft if the office continues to consider the ordinance.

Such language should include following the BCA’s recommendation to specify exemptions. It is imperative that the draft ordinance include a plan for an information campaign to inform employers of their obligations. This is particularly salient if an expedited timeline is pursued, as businesses will likely have only a few weeks to implement the ordinance. There must be funds dedicated to outreach and education in the plan.

Waldman is President Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA)