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Austin’s Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance now in full effect

(BUSINESS NEWS) This ordinance, the first of its kind in Austin, has been enforced in a majority of states across the US, in a move towards eliminating social injustice for ex-convicts.

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Eliminating discrimination

In an effort to eliminate job discrimination in Austin TX, the city’s council officially voted and approved the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance April 4th, 2016. This ordinance, the first of its kind in Austin, has been enforced in a majority of states across the US, in a move towards eliminating social injustice for ex-convicts.

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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.”

What does it mean for employers?

Before fair chance hiring, background checks were typically performed in the very beginning of the hiring process, as a way to separate applicants with criminal histories.

The Fair Chance hiring ordinance, though, changes the order of things, and now requires background checks to be performed towards the end of the hiring process for businesses with over 15 employees.

The ordinance, which can be read in its entirety here, requires employers to give candidates, regardless of criminal backgrounds, a fair chance at the job.

While ex-convicts may see this as a good thing, some employers and business owners throughout Austin have expressed some concern or doubt. Opposing council members, one being Jose Carrillo, say the new policy may not be simple, or cost-effective to implement by the one year deadline.

“We don’t feel that it’s good business to have the background check when you make somebody a job offer, which is toward the end of the [hiring] process, because there are costs involved,” Carrillo said.

Other foreseeable issues

Pamela Bratton, vice president of Meador Staffing Services in Austin opines that the new policy will have a negative effect on temporary staffing firms, who need to provide qualified employees in little time. If the background check is postponed until the end, the staffing firm and employer have to essentially wait to get the background check back before moving forward. City Council responded to Bratton’s concerns with an amended exception to the legislation that allows temporary staffing firms to run background checks after placing applicants in a pool of qualified candidates, but before offering them an official assignment.

Other business owners have expressed additional concerns for companies that manage or do business in multiple cities, and will have to use different hiring policies. Austin Apartment Association spokesperson Paul Cauduro said while the property management industry recommends running background checks later on anyway, a mandate to hold checks until the end could cause problems.

“Finding a good maintenance technician is very difficult, so [property managers] don’t want to lose out,” Cauduro said. “They want to find out up front someone is disqualified so they can keep their options open.”

Another opposing council member, Ellen Troxclair, expressed an entirely different concern than just financial and time burdens. She feels the ordinance gives the government too much power over what used to be a voluntary process. “The size of the bigger businesses already allows them to enforce a policy like this, but it’s not the government’s job to mandate when a private business owner should be permitted to do a background check,” she said.

It is important to note, this does not mean employers are forced to choose a candidate regardless of their criminal history. After receiving the results from the background check, employers have complete autonomy to deny the candidate.

But don’t fret

Flux Resources, a recruitment firm based in Austin, TX, already employs a fair chance hiring process and hopes to encourage other businesses about the new citywide policy. Bobby Dettmer, Flux Vice President, said “I just feel like if people start doing it the way we’re doing it, I think they’ll notice it takes them a lot less time to find the right person,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping.”

At Flux, the background check, which includes a drug screening, costs a total of around $87.

Dettmer says they save additional money by only running background checks on candidates who have been offered a position by a client, instead of every single person who interviews.

According to him, he has only had to restart the hiring process because of a background check a handful of times.

This new ordinance also allows businesses in Austin to stand on the forefront and teach other areas of a policy that may soon be nationwide. States like Washington, Minnesota, Oregon and California are already utilizing some form of fair chance hiring.

Implementation

Austin businesses with over 15 employees, which amounts to just over 7,000 companies, have one year to adopt the fair chance hiring policy. After that point, 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. City staff estimates the first-year cost of education and implementation would be $345,000.

#FairChance

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.

Business News

Etsy is trying on second-hand fashion with purchase of Depop

(BUSINESS NEWS) With the younger generation moving away from fast fashion, it makes sense that Etsy has acquired one of the most popular Gen Z second hand apps.

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Woman looking at a rack of clothes in a second hand thrift store

Over the last few years, sustainable shopping has been a bullet point in the large-scale topic of the environment. Burning through clothing by disposing of old clothing and shopping from places specializing in “fast fashion” is causing damage to the earth.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

As a result, shopping second hand has become more popular, as opposed to mass-produced fast fashion. Online platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have grown tremendously over the last 3 to 5 years.

Now, Etsy is getting in on the resale action through its acquisition of Depop – a second hand fashion app that allows for the buying and selling of used fashion items.

Etsy paid $1.6 billion to acquire the UK-founded company, which has attracted a younger, Gen Z-based audience due to its social media use and messaging on shopping in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the company was “thrilled” to be adding what it believes to be the “resale home for Gen Z consumers” to Etsy. Depop has approximately 30 million registered users spanning 150 countries.

“Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale,” Silverman said in a statement Wednesday.

“We see significant opportunities for shared expertise and growth synergies across what will now be a tremendous ‘house of brands’ portfolio of individually distinct, and very special, ecommerce brands.”

Due to the COVID-related e-commerce boom, shares of Etsy have more than doubled in the last year. The stock was up about 6.7% Wednesday afternoon.

According to data from Crunchbase, Depop had raised a total of $105.6 million from investors including General Atlantic, Creandum, Balderton Capital, Octopus Ventures and Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, prior to their agreement with Etsy.

With fashion being so cyclical, it may be safe to say that second hand will never fully go out of style.

What are your thoughts on resale apps being the answer to fast fashion woes? Let us know in the comments.

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Business News

As masks become optional, businesses find themselves stuck in the middle

(BUSINESS NEWS) One liquor store’s decision on mask policy following changes in local laws has become a recurring story throughout the nation.

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Woman in front of small business with two children, all wearing face masks

The American mask debate has comprised a whirlwind of clashing political ideologies, legal dilemmas, and personal agendas, with businesses placed directly in the middle of the storm. As the pandemic continues to run its course, a disparity in state mandates and legislation is only serving to increase the strain on these establishments.

With increased access to vaccines and several states rolling back their COVID guidance, the option to wear—or not wear—masks is becoming more discretionary, with businesses often having the final say in whether or not they expect masks to be used on their premises. One such business, a liquor store, posted a notice regarding their staff’s decision to continue wearing masks:

“In accordance with Johnson County mandates: Masks are now optional. Please do not berate, verbally assault, or otherwise attack the staff over their choice to continue wearing masks.”

The notice went on to say, “It is painfully depressing we have to make this request.”

That last line epitomizes many business owners’ stances. Places across the country have started allowing customers to discard their masks with proof of vaccination, but if employees choose to keep their masks for the time being, it’s difficult for clients not to view it as a kind of political statement—despite their decisions often being corroborated by local laws.

And, as long as businesses continue to operate within the confines of those laws, their decisions should be free from public scrutiny.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening as evidenced by the notice posted by the liquor store in Johnson County. The same disparity that allows for some freedom despite COVID still being present in many Americans’ lives often leaves those who choose not to wear masks to conclude that those who do wear them are being judgmental or unnecessarily cautious.

Those judgements work in reverse as well, with businesses who allow their employees to work maskless facing criticism from masked clients. It seems that the freedom to choose—something for which people strongly advocated throughout the pandemic—continues to cause separation.

As businesses change or adapt their regulations to fit state mandates and employee (and customer) concerns, everyone would do well to remember that the decisions these establishments make are usually meant to affect some kind of positive work environment—not to welcome harassment and abuse.

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Business News

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(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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