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Fair Chance Hiring: Austin workers should know their rights

(BUSINESS NEWS) Cities and states nationwide are reconsidering at what point a criminal background check should be performed on potential employees.

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Ordinance opens doors

This year, the Austin City Council approved the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance, affording ex-criminals a better opportunity to secure jobs. More than an ordinance, I believe it is a move in the right direction to eliminate social injustice among those who have already paid their debt to society.

District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar, who proposed the policy last year said, “It was a really long journey, but I think it really shows this new council is dedicated to thinking of local government in a more bold and progressive way than we might be used to,” adding, “This is, at heart, an anti-discrimination, civil rights piece of legislation, but I believe it also to have great benefits [for public safety and economic development].”

So what is the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance?

As you already know, background checks are typically performed in the very beginning of the hiring process, as a way to weed out applicants with a criminal history. The Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance now delays an employer from running a background check on a potential candidate until just before the candidate is about to be offered the job.

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The new ordinance, also known as “banning the box” applies to business in Austin TX, with 15 or more employees. It does not, however, apply to positions for which prior law disqualifies candidates with a criminal history, or where a federal, state, or local law, or compliance with legally mandated insurance or bond requirement disqualifies an individual based on criminal history. Nor does it do away with criminal background checks.

Other cities, in an effort to eliminate social injustice in their respective areas, have also started to consider some form of “fair chance” hiring. In Ohio, Georgia, and Wisconsin, it is state policy and applies to public employers only.

In other states like Florida and Louisiana, there are certain cities and counties that enforce “fair chance” hiring, but not the entire state, and applies only to public employers. For a complete map of states, and areas that practice some form of “ban the box” are listed here:

fair-chance-hiring-nationwide
(Image by Community Impact)

Advantages for employees

For employees, there are a number of advantages presented by the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. If you have any sort of criminal background for example, like an embarrassing drunk college evening that resulted in trespassing, you won’t be automatically eliminated from the job pool.

Those with criminal backgrounds are also less likely to be limited to low-rank, low-paying positions, which is what some companies do that accept ex-criminals, but not promote them.

If you don’t have a criminal background, this policy still impacts you, as it is projected to create a more diverse, and resourceful workplace for you to feed off of and contribute to.

Disadvantages for employees

The biggest foreseeable disadvantage for employees is the increase in job competition with the new access to talent. Employees may also theoretically experience companies eliminating positions due to their perceived effect of the ordinance on their business goals.

Additionally, some businesses assert that the new act will increase the cost of the hiring process.

Know your rights

Although the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance has a lot of benefits for employees, especially those with criminal backgrounds, you must also know that that nothing in the ordinance limits an employer’s authority to withdraw a conditional offer of employment for any lawful reason, including the determination that an individual is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment of the individual’s criminal history.

It’s also important to note that recourse for workplace discrimination is handled completely differently than issues handled by Federal Agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If an employee intends to file a complaint, they must do so with the city, since it is a city-level ordinance, which may result in the company being fined, but employees will not receive compensation.

Austin businesses have until April 2017 to adopt the ordinance, after which employers found in violation will receive a warning for a first-time offense and a fine of up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Businesses will receive written notification of the new law, but the city’s manager will also implement a public education campaign to inform employers and residents of the requirements.

#FairChanceHiring

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Age discrimination lawsuits are coming due to the pandemic – don’t add to the mess

(BUSINESS NEWS) Age discrimination is spreading despite intentions to help, and employers need to know how to proceed in this unprecedented era.

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Ageism void

Before the pandemic, age discrimination was prevalent in workplaces. The EEOC reports that in 2018, about 6 out of 10 workers aged 45 years and older say they experience discrimination on the job.

A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.

Not only do older workers deal with discrimination, but they are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, older workers were hit the hardest by job loss during the pandemic, which is unusual during a recession. As offices reopen, employers need to be careful to avoid age discrimination in rehiring.

Lawyers expect age discrimination lawsuits to increase.

Last September, Harris Meyer published an article in the ABA Journal that predicted a “flood of age discrimination lawsuits” from the pandemic. Employers who have good intentions by keeping older employees out of the workplace to protect their health are still guilty of age discrimination.

What can employers do to avoid age discrimination?

It may be fine line between making sure you don’t discriminate based on age while offering ADA accommodations. The first thing employers should do is to know what laws apply based on their location. Some states exempt employees over 65 from returning to the workplace out of safety fears, meaning that those employees can still get unemployment. Other states are cutting benefits if employees don’t return to work, regardless of age.

There are some jurisdictions that have passed legislation about which workers have the right to be recalled. Next, review your own policies and agreements with laid off and terminated employees. You may want to consult legal counsel to make sure you’re covering your bases.

As you rehire, whether you’re bringing back former employees or hiring new team members, do not make hiring decisions based on age. Keep good documentation about your decisions to terminate certain employees. If you are citing poor performance, make sure to have a record of that. Don’t terminate older employees who have bigger salaries just because of lower sales. Monitor your words (and that of your hiring team) to avoid bias in hiring and firing.

Provide accommodations or not?

According to the SHRM, “Workers age 40 and older are protected from bias by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, that law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations for safety concerns.”

Still, employers can provide flexibility for workers, but it largely depends on the type of job. Reaching an accommodation for an office worker will be much easier than accommodating a sanitation worker.

Employers should assume that workers aged 40 and older can return to work. When the need for help is raised by the employee, enter negotiations for accommodations. Don’t initiate the conversation, and absolutely avoid any references to age.

Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.

Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.

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