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Move To Delay Background Checks Stirs Controversy

LOS ANGELES ( — There's a box on job applications that many people dread having to answer.

Every employer makes sure to ask "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" and for people with troubled pasts it can be a major hurdle to them turning their lives around.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has joined a movement to delay background checks on potential employees, so that those with felony convictions don't automatically get nixed from the hiring process. Employers wouldn't be able to ask about any criminal background until after the first application has been completed.

Supporters say the "Ban the Box" crusade is about giving people "a second chance."

"Los Angeles is the city of second chances," the mayor said. "Somebody might have been arrested for prostitution, they might have been trafficked into it. They might be arrested for drug trade or gotten involved in gangs because they had no parents around. If we're a city that's going to be truly compassionate, and most importantly, that's going to move the entire economy forward, we can't leave these folks behind."

"All this says is once you give a job offer, of course do background checks on people, make informed decisions, but let them have the chance," Garcetti said.

Jose Arellano says he wasn't able to make it past the initial application during his job search once he marked "yes" for the box on prior criminal convictions.

"I went to prison, I paid my debt to society," said the father of three, with a baby on the way. "Hire me or not hire me based on my qualifications, not based on my past."

But opponents, many of them business owners, say it's only fair to ask about an applicant's criminal background up front. They say the "Ban the Box" campaign is "feel-good" legislation that protects criminals at the expense of the public.

"And to employers and critics who say I need to know if someone has committed a crime in the past because they could commit a crime against me in the future?" CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Randy Paige said to Garcetti.

"So could somebody who doesn't have a record. And I can guarantee these folks will be out there on the streets, more likely than not, committing crimes if they don't turn their lives around - and they're trying hard," the mayor said.

The initiative is now in the hands of city staff, who will explore its feasibility. In a few weeks it will be sent back to the L.A. City Council for a vote.



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