City Commission moves forward with “Fair Chance Hiring” initiative


The Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously at their May 13 General Policy Committee meeting to move forward with an ordinance that, in its draft form, states that “An employer may not solicit criminal history information about an individual or consider an individual’s criminal history unless the employer has first made a conditional employment offer to the individual.”

The draft ordinance and presentation were made by Community Spring, a non-profit whose mission is “to dismantle structural poverty and spur economic mobility at a grassroots level.” Community Spring is also administering the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income program that will provide direct cash payments to individuals; they have stated that these payments will go to people who have been released from prison. Community Spring also employs “fellows,” “people who are experiencing poverty for nine-month fellowships, and paying them a fair wage to work together to address the issues they identify as contributing to poverty in their communities.”

According to the presentation, their initiative, Fair Chance Hiring, addresses the problem that “many people with criminal records are turned away from jobs without being fully considered, despite being qualified and motivated to do the work.” Their solution is to “give neighbors with criminal records a fair chance to compete for jobs and re-engage with their community.”

Key elements of the initiative are removing questions about criminal records from the initial stages of the hiring process; only looking at convictions and pending prosecutions, not arrests; and considering the context of any convictions, including time passed since the offense, whether it is related to the job position, and evidence of rehabilitation. The intent is that employers would not be required to hire an applicant with a record: “Employers retain full discretion to conduct a background check and hire the most qualified candidate.”

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Community Spring said in their presentation that people with records benefit with increased employment and decreased recidivism; businesses benefit with lower employee turnover and a bigger talent pool; and the community benefits because of tax savings and because the initiative supports racial equity (“In Alachua County, Black people are incarcerated at a rate 9 times higher than white people”).

An employer who decides not to hire someone based on their criminal history must inform the individual in writing that the adverse action was based on the individual’s criminal history and that the individual has the opportunity to file a complaint with the Office of Equity & Inclusion. The draft ordinance provides for penalties between $500 and $2,000 for employers who violate its provisions.

The ordinance will be brought before the City Commission again when staff completes their review and the official draft.