Los Angeles job fair seeks to help parolees

Saturday, December 3, 2016
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A job fair sponsored by the city of Los Angeles helped to match those with criminal records to employers willing to give them a second chance.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The city of Los Angeles hosted a job fair on Friday aimed at giving parolees a second chance in life.

Job seekers at the city's Fair Chance Hiring Fair said it is often very difficult landing a job with a criminal record.

"Having a felony is a huge barrier," said Ray Zacarias, who served time for armed robbery. "So wherever you go, you're going to be really limited. It's going to be a lot of warehouse positions."

The fair sought to lower some of those barriers by showcasing employers who are willing to hire someone who's been incarcerated.

Uber, for example, has adjusted some of its hiring policies to allow those with low-level nonviolent offenses participate in the ridesharing app. Since then it's seen 3,300 new drivers sign up in Southern California.

Christopher Ballard, general manager for Uber Southern California, said those drivers are receiving the same online ratings as the platform's national average.

The Los Angeles City Council is making other efforts to help those with criminal records. The council recently passed the Fair Chance initiative banning the checkbox on job applications that asks if applicants have ever been convicted of a felony.

Employers will still be able to conduct criminal background checks once a job offer has been made, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, but "it's important for people to get the opportunity to make their case, to say who they are and not be taken out of the game before they've even started."

Ultimately, Garcetti noted, the efforts should also help to reduce recidivism and keep crime rates lower.

"If we don't give people jobs who have served time, guess what? They recommit crimes," Garcetti said.