Austin, Texas Considers Banning the Box for Private Employees

By Michael Klazema on 5/26/2015

Austin, Texas may be the next municipality to extend "ban the box" policies to include private employers. Already, the city of Austin has adopted "ban the box" policies for public positions, removing questions about criminal history from job applications, and delaying the criminal background check until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. However, at this point in time, those policies only affect applicants looking to work for the city in some capacity. New proposals would extend the ordinances so that they would affect anyone applying for a job in the city.

The new resolution is currently under consideration by the Austin City Council. Depending on the council's decision, Austin's city manager could be asked to draft a new city law or ordinance that would effectively "ban the box" within city limits. If that happens, every private employer in Texas's state capital, from restaurants to auto shops and beyond, would be required to remove the "have you ever been convicted of a crime" question from their job applications. Based on the laws already in place for public employers in the city, screening processes would also be changed, with background checks waiting until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

If the Austin City Council does decide to push for banning the box for private employers, it would be considered a huge victory for the fair chance hiring movement. "Ban the box" policies have become increasingly customary for public employment, but they are still rarely enforced for private employers. Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle are a few of the only major cities that have yet taken steps to promote fair chance hiring across all employment lines. In other words, Austin is joining a fairly exclusive (but important) group.

According to Austin's city manager, implementing "ban the box" policies for governmental positions has been beneficial for the city in more ways than one. Not only has it earned Austin points as a proponent of fair and equal hiring, but it has also saved taxpayer money because it has reduced the number of background checks the city is running. Since checks are only run after offers of employment have been made, the city has avoided spending money on applicants who weren't hired. Something similar could happen for private employers in the city if additional "ban the box" legislation is signed into law.


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