Waterloo, IA – Ban the Box

May 26th, 2020 | Angela Preston, Senior Vice President and Counsel, Corporate Ethics and Compliance with Ryan Hannan, Compliance Associate

On April 4, 2020, Iowa’s District 1 Court ruled in favor of the City of Waterloo’s Fair Chance Initiative (the “Amendments”) to amend the Code of Ordinances to include “Ban the Box” requirements. Initially passed in November 2019, the Amendments were challenged by a lobbying group who argued that state law hinders cities from restricting how private business entities make hiring decisions. With the ruling favoring the City, the Amendments are set to take effect on July 1, 2020.

The Fair Chance Initiative adds Section 15, “Unfair Use of Criminal Record in Hiring Decisions” to Title 5, Chapter 3 of the Waterloo Code of Ordinances. These amendments apply to all employers with 15 or more employees within the City of Waterloo, with exceptions for federal, state, county divisions, and K-12 private schools.

The amendments establish that it is unlawful for employers to do the following:

  • Inquire about or require disclosure of criminal history information prior to a conditional offer; however, criminal history information that is voluntarily disclosed by applicants may be discussed
  • Make adverse hiring decisions based solely on arrest records or pending criminal charges
  • Make adverse hiring decisions based on erased, expunged, pardoned, or otherwise nullified charges
  • Make adverse hiring decisions based on an applicant’s criminal record, without a legitimate business reason

Legitimate Business Reasons to Consider:

The Amendments further define and establish protocols for determining legitimate business reasons. These include situations where the nature of the criminal conduct bears on the applicant’s fitness or ability to carry out their duties or poses an unreasonable risk to the business or the public. In determining these circumstances, employers must consider the following:

  • The nature of the employment, and the place and manner in which it will be performed
  • The nature and seriousness of the offense, and whether the employment presents opportunities for committing similar offenses
  • The number and types of offenses
  • The length of time between the conviction and the application for employment, not including time spent on probation or parole, or during which fines or other financial penalties or remedies are outstanding
  • Information provided by the applicant that attests to rehabilitation or subsequent good conduct

Other legitimate business reasons include positions that involve working with children, disabled persons, and vulnerable adults – if the applicant has a conviction record with crimes against children, disabled, or vulnerable adults – including crimes of a violent, sexual, exploitative, or endangering nature. Similarly, state or federal laws and regulations pertaining to an applicant’s criminal history information bearing on their fitness for the employment must be complied with.

Waterloo joins a growing list of state and local jurisdictions passing similar “Ban the Box” regulations to remove barriers to employment for those with criminal histories. Waterloo employers should review their current hiring practices and consult with their legal counsel to aid in their compliance with these new requirements.

The full text of the Fair Chance Initiative can be found Here.

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