Austin's 'Ban the Box' Law Is A Texas First

If you’re a recruiter in Austin, take note—thanks to a new city ordinance, asking about a candidate’s criminal history could put you on the wrong side of the law.

Passed on March 24 and effective April 4, the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance is Texas’s first-ever “ban the box” law. The ordinance bars companies with 15 or more Austin-based employees from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until after extending a conditional offer of employment. Employment, as defined by the ordinance, simply means “to work for an employer for pay”—so full-time, part-time, temporary, and contract positions are all covered under the new rules. The ordinance also applies to third party agencies acting on behalf of the employer, such as recruiting firms.

The new requirements do not apply to state agencies, certain nonprofits, or any “job for which a federal, state, or local law disqualifies an individual based on criminal history.” The ordinance bears some resemblance to Philadelphia's ban the box law, which went into effect last month.

Ban the box regulations are being passed at an increasing rate across the country. It is recommended that employers, particularly those with workers in multiple cities and states, acquaint themselves with their local laws. If a third party handles recruiting or background checks for your organization, be sure to confirm that their practices are compliant with your city or state’s laws.

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