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City of Gainesville moves forward on ordinance to prevent employers from doing background checks before making a job offer

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At the February 24 General Policy Committee meeting, the Gainesville City Commission discussed a draft of their proposed “Fair Chance Hiring” ordinance and voted to ask the City Attorney to make some changes and bring it back within 90 days.

The draft ordinance, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees except specific businesses like day care facilities, prohibits employers from asking about the criminal history of job applicants or doing a background check unless the employer has first made a conditional employment offer to that person. An employer also may not take adverse action (refuse to hire, refuse to promote, or revoke a job offer) against a person because of their criminal history without determining that the person is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment and then informing the person in writing that the adverse action was based on the person’s criminal history. 

The ordinance would be enforced by the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, which has the authority to issue civil penalties (fines) to the business.

Max Tipping, Policy Director of Community Spring, a non-profit that has recently focused on re-entry of people who have been incarcerated, said he was concerned that the draft ordinance didn’t reflect the input they had provided to the Office of Equity and Inclusion. He thought the ordinance should apply to employers with 5 or more employees, should not allow employers to consider arrests or criminal accusations (limit the consideration to convictions) in the background check, should consider the age at the time of the offense and evidence of rehabilitation or good conduct, should add a requirement to allow the potential employee to respond to anything found in the background check, should remove the opportunity for an employer to comply voluntarily before assessing penalties, and should allocate part of the fine to the person who reports the violation.

“I mean, yeah, I’ve been arrested, but they were looking for someone who also happens to be my color. That’s pretty likely in this world.” – Commissioner Reina Saco

Commissioner Reina Saco pointed out that the CEO of Nike (it’s actually Nike’s Jordan brand) murdered someone when he was 16, in 1965, but kept it a secret until recently. “So I think it’s very important to see how old… It’s very different to commit something when you’re 16 versus ‘I did this last year’… If it’s been 40 or 50 years, that should show I’m trying to be a good person. I’m trying to get a job. Let me.’” She agreed that employers shouldn’t be able to ask about arrests since people get arrested because “much more likely in this country, you look like the wrong person… I mean, yeah, I’ve been arrested, but they were looking for someone who also happens to be my color. That’s pretty likely in this world.”

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Tipping said they wanted arrests to “be totally off the table,” even after the conditional offer is made. Saco said, “I’ll agree with that. I mean, if it didn’t lead to anything, it didn’t lead to anything.”

Tipping said acquittals should also not affect job offers; Saco agreed, “No one looks to the end of the docket; they just see the charge.”

Saco also wanted the fines to increase if subsequent complaints are made against the same employer. 

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut supported all of Tipping’s recommendations, but she said she didn’t want to wait nine months to study it. She said businesses already have some familiarity with this because Gainesville was one of the first communities to pass “Ban the box” (an ordinance prohibiting a check box on a job application about criminal history); Mayor Lauren Poe later clarified that this is only a policy for hiring City of Gainesville employees. Chestnut supported having engagement through the Chamber of Commerce on the details of the ordinance, but she recommended doing that within three months.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos asked Interim City Attorney Daniel Nee to look at options for splitting the penalty with the complainant. Poe added, “This is that next logical step to take [‘Ban the Box’] community-wide.”

Take into account a “pattern” of accusations that were dropped?

Nee said he thought most of the suggestions could easily be accommodated, but, for example, a pattern of domestic battery accusations in which the victim doesn’t want to move forward could warrant further investigation. He also said a warning is built into the civil citation process in Florida statutes, and increasing penalties are also built into the statutes. He said he wasn’t aware of any process for directing part of a fine to the complainant. He said that doing that would change the ordinance “from a shield to a sword.”

A “new type of heavy regulation on businesses”

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos acknowledged that this is a “new type of heavy regulation on businesses” in Gainesville. He supported a lower limit of 15 employees because companies smaller than that typically don’t have human resources departments that keep track of this type of regulation.

Chestnut made a motion to include the ten recommendations from Community Spring, work with Community Spring to bring this before the Chamber of Commerce, and return to the commission within three months with an ordinance. Saco seconded the motion. 

Nee said he was under the impression that some of the recommendations were already in the ordinance, as he had explained. Chestnut modified her motion to remove the change from 15 to 5 employees and to keep a warning for first violations. Nee said that the language about individual assessments included the desired goals of considering the age when the offense was committed and the length of time since the offense, but Poe said they wanted to add “more explicit language, as long as it’s not contradictory.” Saco agreed that she didn’t want to leave anything up to interpretation. 

After some discussion about the pros and cons of prohibiting any consideration of arrests that didn’t result in a conviction (even after the job has been offered), particularly because domestic abuse and child abuse charges can be difficult to prosecute, Chestnut proposed negotiating that with the Chamber and with Community Spring. Nee said the City Attorney’s office typically doesn’t negotiate: “We write what you tell us, as long as it’s legal and ethical.”

Poe said they needed to settle the question: “Do you want to stick with Community Spring’s recommendation, which is that we will not consider arrests, [nolo contendere pleas], or anything other thing unless it’s a conviction?” Chestnut said, “Yes,” so that went into the motion. 

The motion to bring back a draft ordinance within three months after working with Community Spring and the Chamber of Commerce passed unanimously.

  • Umm, so will the city taxpayers be liable if a private employer hires somebody who commits a costly crime, or negligence later, and it’s found they had a record of similar recorded incidents hidden during hiring? The Nike guy may not have used foreign slave labor if he hadn’t murdered somebody, for example. Anyway, count of DeSantis to nix another Woke local time waster, soon. Please focus on REAL local issues, not what G. Soros wants. He didn’t vote for you.

    • Beginning to think much of these outrageous acts are only to draw attention to themselves as the most liberal officials (not that they actually conduct themselves as officials) around in order to get noticed by AOC types and sweep themselves into a grandiose big-time position where they are loved by Pisslosey, AOC, Andrew Gillum, and other nut jobs! In their dreams!!! Losers dreaming they day away not carrying what or who they destroy!

  • Well. I guess they’re just planning ahead for November when they’ll all be looking for work after they do their time. Wish they would have planned like that while they were ruining the city.

  • How about giving inmates the option to work on road crews or similar jobs while they are incarcerated? They would earn a small amount of money and also get into a routine of getting up and going to work every day. Perhaps even give them a certificate of achievement for performance, perfect attendance, etc. Whoops… we already had that, and the city decided (in their white leftist elitist derangement) that it was the equivalent of SLAVERY.

  • Looks like the Chestnut isn’t falling far from the tree.

    Gotta love that the commission, who already dictates what you do on/to your property, is now telling business owners the hiring processes to be used in the city. For an organization who sticks their noses in everyone’s business, it’s ironic they don’t want or feel they should listen to the residents of Gainesville. They definitely need to have something shoved you where.

    I wonder if they are going to be as willing to let that sexual offender live next door or take their daughters out on a date?

    These people are insanely stupid.

    • Ouch. The truth hurts. Can the city commission do
      Something about the explosion of vagrants in the city
      And the panhandling in the medians? Maybe they can
      Get the panhandlers into a city sponsored work program to clean up the streets: “don’t be a panhandler, be a
      Canhandler”…let’s put the inmates back to work
      Like how Mr. Peabody mentioned in his post.

      • they are all wearing masks in the photo…you know
        What that means…they are virtue signaling. The face
        Mask is the equivalent to the MAGA hat. It’s a political
        Statement.

  • Having not read the actual ordinance I am limited to info in this article. That being said I have a couple questions. First is Shands exempted from this? When my wife was hired over 8 years ago she had to pass a level 2 background check. If she failed she would not get the job. Second, what about companies that have to have bonded employees like cleaning companies that have employees in buildings and homes when the owners are not there. I don’t see this passing any legal challenges. Now don’t get me wrong I am all for giving people a second chance, but it should be up to the employer.

    • I believe in 2nd chances as well but these meddling moronic idiots want total control over every aspect of our lives.

      Sounds like other $0c!al!$t leaders don’t you think?

    • Unless rules have been changed over the years, Gainesville city employees are also required to be bonded.

      • Didn’t it say it did not apply to city employees? Unless I read it wrong . And I read that part over and over trying to make sure I understand it all

  • The idiots are out of their freaking minds, AGAIN! Must be smoking some of Poe’s weed?

  • Under these rules the butt lift girl that stole $100,000 using city credit cards would be assured of getting a job again. Will they get the Supervisor of Elections to come up and personally give them all a ballot too? Why not make all thefts under $500 non prosecuted while we’re at it? We can be like NY or San Francisco even quicker.

  • Should require all city commissioners to have a convicted murderer as a full-time office assistant and driver if they are so sure of dictating second chances. Can’t wait for the lawsuits suing the city on this one!

  • Seems crazy that the same folks who tell me “You can’t send that person to our job because of his criminal history” are telling me not to consider his criminal history when hiring. The fact is I’ve interviewed and hired (or not hired) hundreds of people over the years. I’ve done may jobs where violent felonies preclude an employee from working on a project by law or by government/institution rules. It also allows me at the initial interview to assess the honesty of the person being interviewed. If they tell me their story, I can make a decision based on the subsequent background screening to whether or not they told me the truth and that goes a long way in identifying the character and integrity of an individual. I’ve never let past indiscretions be the final arbiter of whether to offer a job or not. It is the character that counts, and showing up for work on time, every day, of course.

  • This is UNREAL!!!! So someone could be a sex offender/pedophile and not have a background check to work at a daycare or school?! NO WAY!

    • That’s only if they want to work at your child’s school. Not “their” child’s school.

      Remember, they are the liberal elitists and what they demand of their minions should not be expected of them.

    • The article specifically says daycare facilities and those similar are except from this policy. 🙄

      • I read the article and there is already a state statute that requires background screening for school personnel in contact with children. I referenced it because most people are very protective when it comes to children, rightfully so.

        That being said, many Democrats choose to impose rules on their subjects that they themselves choose to imply do not apply to them. Hence the “Newsom” rules. Nice ring to it.

  • It’s just one more reason for businesses to decide not to open a store/restaurant/facility in this area. We should have a Costco, Denny’s, and many more.

  • Sorry, you sorry commissioners. Your luck has run out. Mamny more of us are paying attention than ever before. You like Kalifornia? Maybe you too can be run out of office like those board of education members in Kalifornia? Totally unacceptable!

  • The DNC must be running low on their pool of non-convicted candidates.

  • So how would this apply to someone seeking a position to work where guns are handled and sold?

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