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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

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but it seems more people are asked about their personal life. How do you escape this problem?

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Walmart delays the launch of its Amazon Prime competing service

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart+ is being delayed once again, but the service has yet to be cancelled. Will it be another flop?

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Walmart+ Amazon

Walmart+, the supposed Amazon Prime alternative of the century, has been delayed from launching until further notice. This marks the second delay of the year.

Vox reports that the Amazon Prime competitor was initially supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2020, but Walmart pushed the release back to July due to Coronavirus concerns. Now, Walmart+ doesn’t have a definitive launch date–indecision that’s easy to chalk up to both the ongoing pandemic and trepidation regarding profitability in an Amazon-dominated world.

Amazon Prime, a service which runs customers $119 per year, has well over 100 million members in the United States; that works out to at least one member in a little over 80 percent of households here. Between its ubiquitous nature and the fact that Amazon Prime members are more inclined to use Amazon frequently than non-Prime members, it isn’t hard to see why a premium Walmart subscription seems a little redundant.

But Walmart doesn’t see it that way. “Walmart executives have hoped the program would strike a balance of being valuable enough that customers will pay for it, while boasting different enough perks from Amazon Prime so that there aren’t perk-by-perk comparisons,” Vox posits. At $98 per year, Walmart+ would include things like same-day delivery, gas discounts, line-skipping, a dedicated credit card, and potentially even a video streaming service.

While there are some clear parallels between Amazon Prime and Walmart+, one can attribute those to convenience rather than imitation. People seem to enjoy having extra streaming options as a perk of Prime, so for Walmart+ to include something similar wouldn’t exactly be inappropriate.

The largest obstacle to Walmart+’s success in a post-Coronavirus world probably won’t have much to do with brand loyalty, but the fact remains that Amazon’s value is so far above and beyond Walmart’s that people who regularly use Amazon Prime aren’t likely to make the switch–and, as mentioned previously, the sheer number of people who have a Prime membership is high enough to be concerning to Walmart executives.

However, for customers who frequently shop at Walmart or live in relatively rural areas, Walmart+ doesn’t seem like a bad gig. It isn’t Amazon Prime, to be sure–but that’s the point.

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Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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COVID-19 temp gun

Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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