Recently, East Baton Rouge considered a proposal that could give thousands of people more employment opportunities. According to the ordinance, it would prevent many businesses from asking applicants about their criminal history early in the hiring stage.
Many employers would recognize this ordinance as a ban-the-box type of law; ban-the-box already applies during the hiring process for the city-parish and state. However, it does not apply to all businesses. Currently, the ban-the-box regulations apply to the public sector only.
As such, this proposed ordinance would expand the law to private companies. In addition, Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks announced her intention to include most contractors and sub-contractors in the regulation. As a result, contractors doing business with the city-parish could not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process.
According to Councilwoman Banks, incarcerating individuals is a significant expenditure on the city. She also noted that many employers rarely consider hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. As a result, she hopes that bringing attention to these people would encourage employers to hire otherwise unknown talent.
The new ordinance would not prevent employers from conducting background screenings. However, it does stress that employers must make a conditional offer of employment before screening the applicant. In addition, though the law does not require businesses to hire individuals with a criminal record, it does encourage them to consider it if the records prove irrelevant to the position.
The proposed ordinance would expand on the 2018 ordinance. Under the 2018 ordinance, the city-parish could no longer question an applicant’s criminal history on government job applications. The ordinance happened after a 2015 resolution encouraged the city-parish to implement a ban-the-box type practice.
The city almost passed the ordinance in a previous council meeting last month. However, it failed to pass because the Parish Attorney’s Office asked for a postponement, allowing it to tend to administrative issues. If the current version of the proposed ordinance passes, it will go into effect 180 days later. Though most council members support the new policy, several have voiced concerns about compliance procedures.
As such, this delay would give them time to create procedures that satisfy these concerns. They also worried about the cost of hiring employees, which proved significant already. However, the councilwoman who proposed the ordinance stated that no business representatives testified against it.
If the ordinance does pass, it will not apply to some city-parish agencies or departments that handle public safety issues. Examples of these exceptions include Emergency Medical Services, the Greater Baton Rouge Airport District, the Finance Department, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and others.
Employers should review and adjust their hiring practices to prepare for the new measure. The best way for your business to ensure compliance with this ordinance and other background screening regulations is to partner with a background check company that you can trust.
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