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Fair Chance Hiring in Austin: What You Need to Know

Austin City Council’s Economic Opportunity Committee voted recently to move forward with fair chance hiring in Austin. The ordinance is expected to include a one-year period to educate employers before they would face penalties for noncompliance. “Ban the box”—which is currently in effect for City of Austin and its vendors—is the first piece of the puzzle and has been approved to move forward for all employers within the city. Opponents argue fair chance hiring, however, is more stringent and, if passed, will require quite a commitment on the part of human resources and hiring managers in order to stay compliant.

Will it drive employers outside the city limits? Will it affect Texas hiring laws next? Here’s what we know so far.

A resolution was first passed in May 2015 to start investigating fair chance hiring in Austin. Since then, City staff and stakeholder groups have met, the Austin Economic Opportunity Committee (EOC) has been engaged, surveys have been completed and public hearings have taken place before the City Council (click here for a full transcript of the latest meeting).

The City of Austin considers “ban the box” and fair chance hiring two separate components. “Ban the box” eliminates the question of criminal history from the job application process. Plain and simply, “ban the box” asserts that a job applicant not be asked about criminal history until identified as a top candidate. For more on the “ban the box” movement in Austin and throughout the country, see The HT Group resource guide “The ‘Ban the Box’ Effect.”  That particular movement has been met with little resistance. Fair chance hiring, on the other hand, has been met with concern from several stakeholders, namely the human resources and staffing industries.

According to the Austin Economic Opportunity Commission, fair chance hiring in Austin would involve:

  • Employers maintaining records of applicants who were provided offers.
  • Employers retaining personnel and employment records.
  • Employers identifying positions requiring background checks prior to application.
  • Employers using TxDPS only to conduct background checks.
  • Employers being required to include language on background checks on job postings/announcement.
  • Employers being required to provide to candidates written conditional offer letters or notifications of non-selection.
  • Employers ensuring individual criminal history reports remain confidential.
  • City reviewing vendor policies and ensuring consistency with ordinance.
  • City only doing business with vendors that have adopted fair chance hiring practices.

Opponents argue the additional reporting requirements will add a tremendous amount time and cost for employers. Some question the validity of using TxDPS only to conduct background checks while many employers do so much more on their own under federal and Texas hiring laws. Stay tuned for new developments as well as a full The HT Group resource guide on the issue.

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