Thu, Jul

Mayor's Immigrant-Defense Fund Diverts Attention from LA’s Alarming 2017 Hiring Mandates


GUEST COMMENTARY--On December 19, Mayor Garcetti, accompanied by City Attorney Mike Feuer, announced that $5 million of Los Angeles taxpayers' money will be used to pay defense costs for undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Experts immediately challenged this gift of public funds, because deportation is a civil matter. They also claim it is discriminatory because it applies to only one group of individuals.  

Garcetti's chest-pounding response to Donald Trump's threat to enforce federal immigration law may have been staged during the holiday shopping frenzy and religious observances due to an ulterior motive. It distracted watchdogs' and the major media’s attention from announcements of the final versions of hiring mandates for both the City and private businesses – something that should alarm every Los Angeles resident, business owner, taxpayer, consumer and investor. 

On December 14, former Councilmember Jackie Goldberg, head of the Workforce Restoration Working Group, gave a progress report to Paul Koretz' Personnel and Animal Welfare committee on the Mayor's Executive Directive to hire 5,000 new City employees, which is launching in January 2017. The primary goal is to assure that those traditionally turned away due to criminal records or other issues have an increased opportunity to be hired.  

To accomplish this, Garcetti ordered all City Department heads to ensure that no applicant for "non-executive positions that do not involve public safety" is asked to disclose criminal convictions until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. It also admonished that credit history cannot be considered for non-executive positions "where the only basis for using the report is that a position is managerial." 

Garcetti described this Targeted Local Hire Program as, "an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we deliver services to meet the 21st Century demands of our residents.”

It is definitely unprecedented. It ignores that all City employees are at some level involved in "public safety." LA's historic tough background checks were to assure that personal and/or confidential information provided to the City is not improperly used or disclosed by employees. Another concern is that, even if not assigned to jobs deemed unsuitable due to criminal history, City badges can provide employees entry to private property and access to families and children.

Goldberg listed, in order, those who will soon be targeted for hire as City workers: (1) the homeless; (2) formerly incarcerated, including those on parole or probation; (3) "former" gang members; and (4) troubled and "disconnected"/fostered youth. These individuals will be recruited to replace the 46% of current City employees eligible for retirement within two years. 

Veterans are No. 5 on the list, followed by transgender individuals, the disabled, and the elderly. The application will not ask about criminal background, drug use, or credit history. The only requirements are to speak English well enough to be trained and have a legal right to work in the U.S., Goldberg said.  

These employees will earn $15 per hour, plus full benefits, as office trainees or in field jobs and will be permanent after six months or be eligible for promotion. Goldberg used the Mayor's analogy of this providing a "pathway back." 

KFI listeners may recall that on Memorial Day last year, KFI talk-show hosts John and Ken relentlessly chided Garcetti for his statement equating jail time with military deployment and veterans' service. During his announcement of a $9 million partnership between the City and CalTrans to employ the formerly incarcerated, Garcetti urged, "When people have paid their debt to society...we should be not just thanking them for serving that time, but allowing them a pathway back in."

Although the Mayor later claimed this was an error, he had just exposed his intention to force hiring of individuals with criminal records. But, he did not reveal they would be given preference over veterans for City jobs. 

No explanation has been given as to why LA residents and youth who have not been incarcerated, not joined gangs or become homeless are not provided an equal opportunity for entry-level City employment. 

Even more disturbing, Garcetti's "pathway back in" does not stop there. His Fair Chance Initiative resulted in Ordinance No. 184652 - "to limit employers' consideration of the criminal history of applicants for employment." This very restrictive law was signed by the Mayor on December 7 and posted in City Hall beginning December 13 for ten days. It applies to all private businesses with ten or more employees, located in or doing business in Los Angeles, and becomes effective January 22, 2017. 

Here is a brief introduction to this very complex law: 

It applies to any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, organization, group or association that is located or doing business in the City employing ten or more employees, including owners, managers and supervisors. 

Applicants can't be asked about their criminal background, nor can employers conduct any “direct or indirect” (including internet) search or ask any question that, “seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history” until after a conditional job offer is made.  

There are a few narrow exceptions for those carrying firearms on the job or otherwise prohibited by law from holding the position.  

If employment is then denied, the employer must perform a “written assessment that effectively links the specific aspects of the Applicant’s Criminal History with risks inherent in the duties” of the job. The assessment must satisfy all factors set forth by the City. 

Non-selected Applicants can file a civil action against the Employer. 

Fines for violation of this ordinance include the questionable provision that an "administrative fine paid by an Employer for a violation of this article may be awarded by the City to the Applicant or Employee up to a maximum of $500 per violation." Has the City become a collection agency for individuals to receive funds garnered as city revenue? 

Ironically, SEC. 189.14. AUTHORITY, states "This article is adopted pursuant to the police powers vested in the City...and is intended to promote the general welfare." 

Even in the holiday bustle, most Angelenos heard the Mayor's well-publicized and broadcast pledge to defend immigrants facing deportation. Why was Garcetti less forthcoming about his new hiring mandates for the City and private businesses? He just sent out a campaign email itemizing reasons to support his re-election. Why was this not on his list?


(Phyllis M Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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