The Austin City Council recently passed the “Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance,” which was enacted to provide a fair chance at employment for people with criminal records. The new “ban the box” law affects private employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits them from conducting a background check until after a conditional job offer has been made.
The law specifically states that employers may not:
- publish or cause to be published information about a job that states or implies that an individual’s criminal history automatically disqualifies the individual from consideration for the job;
- solicit or otherwise inquire about the criminal history of an individual in an application for a job;
- solicit criminal history information about an individual or consider an individual’s criminal history unless the employer has first made a conditional employment offer to the individual.
- refuse to consider employing an individual who submits an application for a job because the individual did not provide criminal history information before the individual received a conditional employment offer.
- refuse to hire, promote or revoke an offer of employment or promotion because of the individual’s criminal history unless the employer has a good faith belief that the individual is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment of the individual’s criminal history.
If employers take adverse action based on criminal history, they must inform the job applicants in writing that the adverse action was based on their criminal history. The penalty for disobeying the ordinance is $500 per job violation.
The ordinance does not provide a private right of action against employers; aggrieved individuals must file a complaint with the Equal Employment/Fair Housing office. The ordinance went into effect within days of passage; however the office will not impose civil penalties against employers for the first year if they violate the ordinance. No matter, employers should immediate make efforts to comply with the law.
Corporate Screening recommends that employers doing business in Austin should familiarize themselves with the new law, as well as review and amend hiring policies and procedures to ensure that they are operating within the regulations. And if you have any compliance questions or concerns, please contact your account representative