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Fair-chance hiring ordinance still percolating

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 by Eva Ruth Moravec

An ordinance that could require all Austin businesses with more than 10 employees to “ban the box” – forgo asking applicants about their criminal history – is expected to come before City Council in March. Council Member Greg Casar briefed his peers on the issue in a work session Tuesday, when he referred to the “new Jim Crow” of people who have served time in prison having difficulty finding work and accessing other rights like voting. “It feels almost unforgivable what our government policies have done to our communities,” said an emotional Casar, adding that more than one in three adult Texans have criminal records and 2,000 Austinites are released from prison each year. The draft ordinance would “remove the question of criminal history from paper, oral and online applications,” except when a criminal history check is required under law for federal, state or local employees. Mark Washington, director of Human Resources, said the city has been forgoing the question since last May, when Council passed a resolution in support of fair-chance hiring. “We’ve not had any issues within our own experience as an employer,” Washington told Council members, most of whom seemed to support the measure.

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