Is Gainesville the Next City to Embrace Ban the Box for Private Employers?

Will Gainesville be the first jurisdiction in Florida to adopt a ban the box ordinance for private employers? 

The Gainesville City Commission is currently discussing a new fair chance hiring ordinance that could reshape how employers utilize criminal background procedures as part of the pre-employment protocol. 

As drafted, the fair chance act ordinance would apply to most Gainesville employers with 15 employees or more. It would prohibit affected employers from asking candidates about their criminal history in job applications or interviews. Those employers would also be required to delay conducting a criminal background check on any candidate until after extending a conditional offer of employment.

The ordinance would also align with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, which urges employers to consider criminal history information on a case-by-case basis rather than enforcing blanket policies. Said another way, employers in Gainesville would not be allowed to disqualify any candidate with a criminal conviction in their past. Instead, the employer would need to assess criminal history individually to determine whether a conviction indeed renders a person unfit to perform a job. Such an assessment might include considerations of details such as the recency of the conviction, the severity of the crime, the relevance of the crime to the position or whether the candidate has any repeat offenses.

If adopted, the city's office of equity and inclusion will enforce Gainesville's ordinance. That office would have the right to fine businesses for any ordinance violations.

Ban the box, and fair chance policies have been a top trend in the background check world over the past decade. These types of legislation are designed to prevent employers from discriminating against people with criminal histories. The thought is that by delaying the moment when an employer learns about a candidate's criminal past, these policies can help diminish the stigma around criminal history in the United States. In turn, proponents of fair chance legislation argue that it can fight recidivism by providing clearer, more realistic pathways for ex-offenders to find gainful employment.

Florida, like most states in the country, has several ban the box policies on the books already. One is a statewide policy, which applies to most state government jobs. More than a dozen local jurisdictions throughout the state also have some variation of a fair chance ordinance in place. Localities with ban the box policies include Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Orlando, Pompano Beach, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tamarac, Tampa, Tallahassee. These jurisdictions only ban the box for public employers, though, meaning that only government positions are affected. Gainesville also has a ban the box policy already in place for public employers.

If the Gainesville City Commission adopts this new fair chance hiring ordinance, it would mark the first time in Florida history that any jurisdiction has extended ban the box requirements to private employers. 

To learn more about the ever-developing history of the fair chance hiring movement, read the white paper on the matter.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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