In the coming weeks, Austin City Council will be debating a Fair Chance Hiring (FCH) ordinance aimed at eliminating employment discrimination against individuals in Austin with a criminal record. This would be a huge step toward creating a more equitable Austin, strengthening our communities, and dismantling institutional racism in our city.
What exactly is Fair Chance Hiring?
You may be familiar with the movement widely known as “ban-the-box”, which refers to removal of the question of conviction history from employment applications so that individuals may be judged on their merits, without the stigma of a criminal record. Last November, President Obama moved for all federal government employers to ban-the-box, and today, over 100 cities and counties across the nation have adopted such policies to help give applicants a chance to fairly compete for gainful employment.
A Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance in Austin would include “ban-the-box”, delaying the question of conviction history until after a conditional offer of employment, but would go further to protect against hiring discrimination. Next month, Austin City Council members will have the opportunity to pass a robust FCH ordinance that is also enforceable and keeps employers accountable.
Why a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance in Austin can’t wait.
“As an African-American high school senior whose mother was incarcerated, I’m a walking example of why Austin needs fair chance hiring: my mom cannot find work, which makes it hard for us to find acceptable housing.” Destiny Harris, Youth Rise Texas
Here are a few things we know:
More than one in three adults in Texas have a criminal record, according to the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
Nearly 2,200 people released from prison return to the Austin area every year.
In 2014, TDCJ reported that 68% of those incarcerated in Texas were Black or Hispanic.
In Texas, despite making up only 12.5% of the population, African Americans account for nearly 35% of individuals locked up in Texas prisons.
About 60-75% of formerly incarcerated individuals cannot find work within the first year upon release, according to the Justice Department.
Employment stability is one of the top factors in preventing recidivism.
Legal employment discrimination against individuals with an arrest and/or conviction history is far reaching, and disproportionately harms the poor and communities of color. In the coming weeks, the people of Austin and our city council members have an opportunity to be leaders in combating discrimination and mass incarceration by passing a strong Fair Chance Hiring (FCH) ordinance. Please stay tuned for how you can help ensure that Austin City Council passes this crucial policy!