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In March of 2016, Austin’s City Council passed the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. This ordinance is referred to as the “Ban the Box” Ordinance because it removes the check box that asks if a job applicant has a criminal record. It prohibits most employers from asking questions about an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment is made. The ordinance applied to private employers with 15 or more employees. Once a conditional employment offer is made, an employer may ask about criminal history. These kinds of local ordinances have come under fire for various reasons. Right now, it is facing serious scrutiny by the Texas Senate.

What is the State Legislature Doing About Austin’s “Ban the Box” Ordinance?

The Texas Senate is working to prevent local governments from implementing things such as Austin’s Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. State Senator Brandon Creighton is leading the charge by sponsoring a bill that would say local governments are not empowered to implement such laws. Senator Creighton’s proposed bill, if enacted, would preempt local rules that prevent employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history.

Senator Creighton’s bill has received preliminary approval from the Texas Senate. Supporters of the bill say that the ability of cities to regulate the employment practices of private companies should be limited. On the other side, advocates of “Ban the Box” ordinances say that these kinds of local laws will reduce unemployment and lower the recidivism rate of offenders, based on the belief that a gainfully employed person with a criminal history would be less likely to reoffend than one who was unemployed.

Legislatures may support the idea of giving criminal offenders a second chance, but oppose the regulation of private businesses. Those in support of Creighton’s bill say that the second chance should be up to the employer, not the government. Additionally, supporters of the bill say that “Ban the Box” ordinances only work to needlessly prolong an application process that might result in the employer ultimately finding out the applicant had a felony conviction that would disqualify him or her from actually being hired.

There is still the worry that that passage of Creighton’s bill will be a step backwards on the road to giving criminal offenders a second chance. “Ban the Box” advocates believe that these people have paid their debts to society and deserve a fair shot at rejoining society. To be a full, contributing member of society, you need a job to pay all of your financial obligations. The National Employment Law Project reports that 34 states and over 150 cities and counties have enacted “Ban the Box” ordinances. This is an advocacy group committed to strengthen protections for low income or unemployed individuals. Still, fear that is mainly Republican based prevents these ordinances from being accepted. Opponents of these ordinances not only think it is overtly intrusive to how private businesses are run, but also fear that an employer may be potentially liable if a criminal offender is hired and goes on to commit other crimes.

Creighton’s bill, Senate Bill 2488, has been initially passed. It still needs to get final Senate approval. If granted final approval, the bill will head to the State House.

Advocating for the Criminally Charged and the Criminally Convicted.

At Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C., we advocate for those who are facing what can often be an uphill battle against the criminal justice system. A criminal conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. We are here to make sure your criminal charge does not become a criminal conviction. We are proud to serve the residence of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.