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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

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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Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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Business News

What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?

(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.

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DMT

Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.

This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”

The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).

Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.

Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.

Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.

DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.

So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?

Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).

Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.

Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.

It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.

For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.

For more reading:

This story was first published here in June, 2019.

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