Fair Chance Hiring


Austin, Texas – March 25, 2016 – Thursday night the Austin City Council voted 8-2 to pass the “fair chance hiring” ordinance, which prevents private companies from requesting that applicants disclose a criminal history by checking a box on a job application. The ordinance, championed by Council Member Greg Casar, applies to employers with at least 15 workers and mandates that an applicant’s criminal history can only be checked after an employer has extended a conditional offer of employment. These companies may refuse to hire a person based on criminal history only after considering the nature and gravity of the offense, the length of time passed since the offense occurred, and the scope of the position for which the person is applying.

Goodwill Central Texas has long since practiced, and been a proponent of, the concept of fair chance hiring as integral to realizing our vision of empowering 100,000 Central Texans to transform their lives through work. We have chosen to dedicate our resources to serving people who are undereducated, people with disabilities, people facing homelessness, and people with criminal backgrounds. In fact, many of our 1,600 employees, at all levels throughout the organization, are people with a criminal history. Last night, however, Goodwill Central Texas chose to testify against the ordinance. The position of Goodwill Central Texas was that the ordinance, as written, does not balance the needs of the business community, and will not have the desired long-term impact of encouraging employers to hire people with diverse backgrounds.  Some specific instances include:

  • Inability to engage a candidate in a background check until a conditional offer of employment has been made - if a job has specific requirements that mandate a clean or specific background, wasting the time and resources of a company in a costly interview process not only hurts the company and its capacity to hire talent, but it also damages the job seeker – offering false hope and possibly preventing people from pursuing other opportunities that will actually result in a job.
  • If there is an absolute about a job in regards to a criminal background, it should be able to be advertised as such.  
  • Small businesses will have the undue burden of interpreting which laws pertain to their corporation, resulting in need for counsel and higher legal fees.

Additionally, while there has been discussion about an educational marketing plan, no actual written plan or corresponding budget currently exists. Goodwill Central Texas believes that in order to achieve the desired results, it is imperative to conduct a comprehensive public education campaign.

“Goodwill will continue to exercise fair chance hiring as always. Our hope had been to create a coordinated and impactful public education campaign to encourage businesses to voluntarily adopt the practice rather than creating more regulation,” says Traci Berry, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement and Education at Goodwill. “Yet, now that the ordinance has passed, we look forward to educating and working with other employers to expand the opportunity to employ more Central Texans with criminal backgrounds.”

To read more about the commitment of Goodwill Central Texas to empower people in our community with criminal backgrounds, please visit our blog.


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