Gainesville, FL Passes Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance

February 3rd, 2023 | Chris Christian, Director of Compliance

On December 22, 2022, the City of Gainesville, Florida passed Ordinance No. 2022-617 to promote fair chance hiring. The new law went into effect on the same day of passage and places a variety of new restrictions on employers who use criminal record history for employment decisions.

The new law applies to any employer with 15 or more employees whose primary work location is in the City of Gainesville for each working day for four or more calendar weeks in the year. The new law has a range of employer-prohibited practices related to job applications and timing of inquiries about criminal history, including the following:

  • Employers may not publish information about job openings that state or imply that an individual’s criminal history automatically disqualifies them from consideration for the job.
  • Employers may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history in a job application.
  • Employers may not inquire from the applicant or a third party about an arrest or a criminal accusation, other than one relating to domestic violence which:
  1. is not then pending against the applicant or
  2. did not result in a conviction, plead of nolo contendere or deferred adjudication.
  • Employers may not inquire about or consider an individual’s criminal history unless the employer has first made a conditional offer.
  • Finally, an employer may not refuse to consider employing an applicant due to the individual not providing criminal history information before the individual received a conditional employment offer.

The term “conditional offer” is defined as an oral or written offer by an employer to employ an individual in a job, or a placement in a staffing agency’s staffing pool, which is conditioned solely on the employer’s evaluation of the individual’s criminal history, and may be conditioned on any pre-employment medical examinations authorized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ordinance also provides a number of exemptions including federal or state agencies, childcare facilities, and some tax-exempt entities.

Under the new law, employers may not take adverse action against an applicant because of the individual’s criminal history, unless the employer has determined that the individual is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment conducted by the employer. The term “Individualized Assessment” is defined to mean an evaluation of the criminal history of an individual that includes, at a minimum, the following factors – nature and gravity of criminal history; age of the individual at the time of offense; length of time since the offense and completion of sentence; the nature and duties of the job; and any information demonstrating the individual’s rehabilitation and good conduct since the occurrence of the criminal offense.

Prior to taking adverse action, the employer must:

  • Inform the individual of the basis for the decision.
  • Provide the individual with a copy of the criminal history records used by the employer for consideration. 
  • Provide the individual with a reasonable opportunity to provide the employer with additional context about the criminal history record being considered.

If an employer decides to take adverse action against the individual based on their criminal history, the employer must inform the individual in writing of the following:

  • The adverse action was based on the individual’s criminal history.
  • The employer must also include the following statement in the adverse action notice:

This notice is provided in accordance with the City of Gainesville Code of Ordinances, Chapter 14.5, Section 14.5-181, which regulated the process and timing of criminal background checks conducted on job applicants.

The penalty for violation may only be enforced by the city. The first violation is $500, with half going to the Complainant. Each additional violation is $500.

When considering this new law, employers should closely review their hiring policies and programs. Employers should also consult with their legal counsel when considering updating their background screening and hiring policies and programs.

The full text of the ordinance can be found HERE.

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