Austin law requires job seekers with criminal pasts to have a fair shot

Austin law requires job seekers with criminal pasts to have a fair shot

Excerpted from austinmonitor.com, by Audrey McGlinchy

When Lauren Johnson started job hunting in the early 1990s, she walked from business to business, filling out applications by hand. “It’ll be so much easier someday when this is all computerized,” she remembers thinking.

Two decades later, job applications had moved online. Something else had changed, too: After spending three years in and out of prison for various drug charges, Johnson had a felony record. She now had to start checking the “yes” box on applications that asked whether she had a criminal record. Electronic applications often wouldn’t let her leave this blank.

Suddenly, Johnson missed paper applications.

“You could skip over that or you could write in a thing that says, ‘I’ll discuss it in the interview.’ Something that would possibly get you in the door,” she said. Online applications deflated her. “I’m about to spend two hours on this application that’s probably going to go in the trash.”

Johnson’s concerns were alleviated when the Austin City Council passed a fair chance hiring ordinance in 2016, becoming the first in Texas and the South to do so. The law is also known as “ban the box,” referring to the boxes job applicants are asked to check regarding felony history. The ordinance prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from asking candidates about their criminal records until they’ve reached the final phase of hiring and been extended a conditional job offer. Violators face written warnings and fines.

But the two-year-old policy is not being enforced.

According to records obtained by KUT and interviews with staff, the city has received five complaints since the rule went into effect on April 4, 2016. All the investigations are currently “pending,” despite the fact that four of them were filed in 2016. The most recent complaint was filed in September.

You can read the full story here.

 

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