Under current law in the city of Austin, those who have criminal pasts and are seeking employment are required to be given a fair opportunity just like everyone else. Unfortunately, this is a law that appears to not be enforced. 

Back in 2016, Austin City Council unanimously enacted a fair chance hiring ordinance, and also became not only the first city in the state of Texas to do this, but also the first city in the South to do this as well. Simply put, the ordinance mandates that private employers containing 15 or more employees cannot ask potential candidates about any prior criminal history until the final phase of the hiring process is reached, which involves the candidate being offered a position. Those who violate this ordinance can run the risk of facing both written warnings and fines.

According to various records, however, this ordinance is still not being enforced, as the city of Austin received a total of five complaints ever since the ordinance officially went into effect. The investigations into these complaints are all currently listed as “pending,” even though four out of the five were filed back in 2016. The most recent complaint was filed back in the month of September. One of the complaints alleges that a workers’ compensation insurance company conducted a criminal background check on a potential candidate before they were offered a job, while another of the complaints alleges that a moving company inquired about an applicant’s previous criminal history on an online application.

According to Austin’s Human Resources Department, they haven’t actually had time to compose rules in regards to investigating complaints that are filed involving the ordinance. This means that the city itself has virtually no process to fine any employers found to be in violation.

Despite the fact that the ordinance was passed and officially signed into law, they could issue warnings throughout the following year; however, fines of up to $500 wouldn’t actually be issues until April of 2017. The bad news is that the city of Austin hasn’t actually done any of this.

Reports state that as of two weeks ago, city staff has stated that they reached out to not only those who filed complaints, but also those who are accused of violating the ordinance; however, they’ve closed no cases and no action against the companies involved have been taken.

Thank you for visiting the JGE blog, an Austin criminal defense law firm. We write to inform Austin about local news and events.