Denton, Texas Considers Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance
The Denton City Council is exploring the adoption of a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance that would restrict an employer’s inquiry into a job applicant’s criminal history. Read more about the ordinance and what it means for employers.
This article first appeared in Forbes on November 7, 2023.
The Denton City Council is exploring the adoption of a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance that would restrict an employer’s inquiry into a job applicant’s criminal history. While the ordinance promotes inclusivity and provides individuals with prior criminal records a fair chance in the job market, it imposes additional compliance requirements on employers.
Fair chance hiring initiatives, often called “ban the box” measures, revolve around delaying inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process, typically after a conditional job offer has been extended to the applicant. This approach allows job seekers to be evaluated based on their qualifications and skills rather than being prematurely excluded due to their criminal history. These initiatives do not limit an employer’s authority to reject an applicant for a lawful reason.
The proposed Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance in Denton, Texas, follows the footsteps of several other U.S. jurisdictions, including Austin and De Soto in Texas. It would apply to private employers with 15 or more employees and seek to prevent unlawful discrimination by prohibiting specific actions:
Publishing information that suggests criminal history as an automatic disqualifier for employment.
Inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application.
Soliciting or considering criminal history information before a conditional employment offer.
Rejecting an applicant because criminal history was not provided before a conditional employment offer.
Taking adverse action based on criminal history without an individualized assessment. Employers must notify the individual in writing if such action is taken due to their criminal history.
The proposed ordinance notes that the employer’s individualized assessment of the applicant’s criminal history must consider, at a minimum:
The nature and gravity of any offenses in the individual’s criminal history;
The length of time since the offense and completion of the sentence; and
The nature and duties of the job for which the individual has applied.
The proposed ordinance does not bar employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history when required by federal or state laws or in cases where specific positions necessitate background checks due to legal requirements.
Employers in Denton should be aware of the changes the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance would bring. Notably, the ordinance would apply to any position for pay, meaning that in addition to traditional employees, contractors, temporary and contingent workers, and individuals participating in vocational or apprenticeship training are in scope. The proposed ordinance emphasizes the importance of individual assessments when considering an applicant’s criminal history. However, it does not restrict an employer’s ability to withdraw a conditional job offer if a candidate is deemed unsuitable for the position based on their criminal history.
Numerous opportunities are presented to the public to learn about the proposed ordinance and voice concerns. The Denton Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual presentation on November 8th to provide an overview of the proposed ordinance and gather feedback from the community. A virtual community meeting will be held on November 15th to offer insights into the proposed ordinance and engage with Denton residents and businesses. On December 5th, a public hearing will be held where community members can provide in-person comments to the City Council regarding the proposed Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance.
The Denton City Council expects to vote on the proposed ordinance in January. If passed, the Fair Chance Ordinance will become effective 120 days later.
Release Date: November 16, 2023
Alonzo Martinez is Associate General Counsel at HireRight. Mr. Martinez is responsible for monitoring and advising on key legislative and regulatory developments globally affecting HireRight’s service delivery. His work is focused on ensuring HireRight’s performance as a consumer reporting agency and data processor complies with relevant legal, regulatory, and data furnisher requirements. Mr. Martinez obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado, and is licensed by the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado. He is a member of the Colorado Bar Association Employment Law Division, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the Professional Background Screening Association.