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Thursday’s City Commission meeting will feature vote on Fair Chance Hiring ordinance that will prohibit employers from performing criminal background screenings before extending a job offer

City Commission, meeting as the General Policy Committee on October 13, 2022

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – During the afternoon portion of the November 17 Gainesville City Commission meeting, the commission will vote on the first reading of a “Fair Chance Hiring” ordinance.

The commission, sitting as the General Policy Committee (GPC), first heard a presentation on the proposed ordinance on May 13, 2021, from Community Spring, a local nonprofit that is “dedicated to economic justice.” Community Spring is also the organization that is administering a guaranteed income program as part of an agreement between the nonprofit, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.

The proposed ordinance would bar local businesses with 15 or more employees from performing criminal background screenings on job applicants prior to extending an offer of employment.  

On February 24, 2022, the GPC considered a first draft of the proposed ordinance and directed staff to engage with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce and also perform a study to determine the impact of the proposed ordinance on local businesses. If the study has been performed, it was not presented to GPC or posted in the agenda for Thursday’s meeting (Alachua Chronicle has submitted a request for a copy of the study).

GPC heard a presentation from the City Office of Equity and Inclusion on October 13 on its engagement with the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and directed the City Attorney to bring back a final version of the ordinance for first reading, which is now scheduled for the November 17 meeting.

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During that presentation, Zeriah Fulston, Interim Director of Equity and Inclusion, told the GPC that “The business community had a lot of questions… a lot of concerns about the ordinance.” He said those concerns included wasting time by finding out about issues late in the hiring process and costs to smaller employers. The Business Leaders Roundtable also provided feedback that the language of the ordinance was too vague and a comment that the ordinance seemed like “a solution in search of a problem.”

Mayor Poe reassured the business owners at the October GPC meeting, “You know, it’s still the hiring manager or proprietor of the business who decides who they hire.”

Vicki Gervickas, the Director for Public Policy and Grassroots Engagement of the Greater Gainesville Chamber, told the GPC, “We are all in agreement that we have a labor problem, and any way to get outside the box, to get more employees matched with employers, we have incredible enthusiasm for that. I would say the overall tone that I have heard from the employers is that this ordinance is perhaps not the most effective way to do that, that it’s a little bit of a solution looking for a problem.” 

Gervickas said that many large employers are already conducting background checks farther into the hiring process, particularly those with human resources departments that “have the capacity to make these kinds of changes without there being too many hiccups.” She said, “We’re adding a layer of regulation and rules” for small businesses “that are going to make it a little more difficult to connect them with the employers.”

Gervickas recommended focusing on education as opposed to an ordinance, including more workshops with employers in various industries, adding, “There was quite a bit of concern about the consultant-type of employers that bring in workers for our larger employers.” She agreed that people with criminal histories face many roadblocks in looking for employment but said that making employers more aware of these problems might be more effective than an ordinance that takes a punitive approach.

She later clarified that the Chamber was concerned that the ordinance was “a little one-size-fits-all for the wide variety of businesses we have in the community and that there perhaps was a more efficient way to do that kind of matching without putting in paperwork and more layers of interviews and going down the process of getting employed, when what we all want together is to make sure that people get jobs… The problem is real, it’s just that we think the problem is matching the people and widening the pool of employees, which we are anxious to do.”

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut proposed implementing a pilot program for a year, but her suggestion did not make it into the motion. 

Poe said he hoped the City Commission would get updates after 6 months and after a year to see “how many folks have not been in compliance, what’s been done in response once somebody has been cited.” He said that he expected that the few businesses that received complaints would quickly come into compliance.

Poe said language would be added to the draft ordinance, clarifying that “employers retain the discretion to determine whether an individual is suitable for the job, based on the employer’s individualized assessment of that individual’s criminal history.” That language is, in fact, in the proposed ordinance that will be considered on Thursday. 

The ordinance does not apply to a job for which federal, state, or local law, or compliance with legally mandated insurance or bond requirement disqualifies an individual based on criminal history.

The first-reading vote on the ordinance is scheduled for the afternoon session (which typically begins at 1:00 p.m.) of Thursday’s City Commission meeting. The ordinance can be read here.

    • Yep. Sounds like the butt-lift girl to me. You remember the one the city HR knew she had a criminal past and never told Parks and Rec. Not until she stole $98,000 using some on a Brazilian butt lift and a Caribbean cruise to show it off!

  • My guess is Poe is wanting to ensure he has the opportunity to obtain employment when his term as mayor is over.
    He’ll likely need it to pay any legal fees.

  • Are they effing kidding? They are taking employers rights away in favor of a criminal. Typical demonrat way of thinking.

  • Whats going on here? According to the Gainesville Sun , Gainesville Leaders , losers like the moderators they employ we are no longer allowed tow Sound Off , Comment, Opionate and Editorialize in the Gainesville Sun. Fat Harvey and PoPo cant take the pounding . What Broke losers.

    • The Sun had layoffs is why they cut citizen input. Can afford to hire the staff needed to edit and answer it.

      • That newspaper has been in a nose dive for 15 years. It was once a decent mid-sized local newspaper. Now if it gets wet you can see through it.

        • “That newspaper has been in a nose dive for 15 years…”

          If you think the Sun was a decent paper 15 years ago, you should have been reading it before the Chamber-gate scandal in the mid-80s.

          The Sun of that era would NOT have ignored what is going on in this city today. I’m thankful Buddy Davis is not around to see how much of a has-been it is now.

      • An announcement the mullet wrapper is going to weekly or ceasing print publication entirely will be the least surprising news of the decade. The only section worth reading is high school sports. The rest has been eroded to a rehash of press releases from the local bureaucracies and democratic party talking points.

  • There’s a shortage of school bus drivers. This welcoming gesture means ex-cons will more likely be bussing your kids around. And opening the city to huge lawsuits when victims and survivors find out why. Lawyer$$$ win again, it’s donor payback time.

      • School bus drivers are hired by the school system, RTS drivers are hired by the city (Gainesville), private operators hire their own.

  • we have a labor problem because of cradle to grave government welfare. i can not imagine trying to run a small business in this environment!

  • My question is the city of Gainesville going to replace money and other items that the crooks are going to steal by having this law. It’s just a matter of time before you see them try and defund the police department

  • Wow, just wow! What will they think of next? The sex offenders are going to love this.

    Really this is just going to waste even more of our money through all the legal wrangling.

  • Have people forgotten the Covid lockdowns and restrictions these so-called leaders mandated? They sought and still seek control of our freedoms so why should this control over businesses come as a surprise.

    Next question is, which way will the newly elected vote?

    Just don’t forget, many of you voted for this control over your lives and places of employment.

  • Poe wants a 6th month report cart to see who’s not in COMPLIANCE!!! Ha ha

    Get a job doing this while you’re in jail, for refusing the city audits.

  • What an utterly absurd idea. To not allow employers to check potential employees for a criminal record. I’ve always thought the Gainesville City Commission to be lefty and stupid, but this is even stupider than usual. Seems they trying to drive businesses out of Gainesville.

  • These idiots have the totally wrong mindset. They should be BEGGING businesses to move here – not finding reasons to discourage them from opening here or remaining open here. Poe already drove out almost of all the tech startups about 4 or 5 years ago. Is he trying to drive out Publix now? (I realize Publix will just laugh at whatever ordinance they pass and go on about their business unimpeded.)

  • This is the inevitable result of the Civil Rights Act. No amount of discrimination is allowed, you must treat everyone equally. And if there are any disparities, that is proof of racism. We should let businesses hire who they want and succeed or fail on their own merits. There’s good reason to be wary of hiring criminals, especially nowadays when so many of them are freed early or don’t even see a day inside prison.

  • Complete waste of time. If an applicant fails a background check then they are going to be terminated or have the job offer rescinded regardless. This is just pointless, unnecessary regulation from the clueless city commission.

    What do they expect to happen? “Oh I wasn’t going to hire this serial kidnapper to work at my daycare, but this ordinance made me give him a chance and now I see he has a heart of gold. He’s staying!”

  • Who’s going to cover the potential losses or lawsuits and/or potential harm and injury to the businesses employees or customers?

    • Just watch the commercials, there’s plenty of ambulance chaser ads on.

      Any litigation should name Poe & Co as co-defendents.

  • These three as*h**** just cannot leave the taxpayers payroll without causing as much pain and chaos for GNV homeowners and businesses as possible! Employers must invest a large amount of time and effort (spell that money $$$) in order to recruit, evaluate, and onboard, potential employees. Why should they not weed out the chaff at the beginning of the process and save themselves a bunch of effort and cost!

    Perhaps it is time for small business owners to join together and move their operations to one of the outlying cities and knock the GNV dust off your shoes! At least outside the GNV City limits!

    Did you hear the Idiotic 3 are going to Israel on the taxpayers dime next month? You just can’t make this stuff up! They should NOT be allowed on these boondoggles at all, much less within 30 days of getting tossed out!

    • Why on Earth are these buffoons traveling to Israel at our expense? What conceivable purpose could this serve? How will the citizens of this city benefit in any tangible way?

      • None! It appears that they are spending the incoming commissioners travel allowance as the new budget has passed!

  • It would appear that Liberals favor criminal behavior. Why else would they even consider such a ridiculous motion? But, Alachua County residents have spoken and evidently, based on election results, are just peachy keen with it.

  • I hope those three are going to the conference in Tel Aviv on finance on Nov but I’m sure it’s not that one. Another waste of taxpayers dollars.

    • Here’s hoping the Taliban or some other group gets a hold of them.
      Maybe the Russians will intercept them and make them Griner’s roommates.

  • This is so foolish. These elected people do not learn from experience or history? They are not of this world.
    Sad that we cannot get rid of them. Nigeria and the Congo were able to clean house years ago.

  • Poe said he hoped the City Commission would get updates after 6 months and after a year to see
    “how many folks have not been in compliance, what’s been done in response once somebody has been cited.”
    He said that he expected that the few businesses that received complaints would quickly come into compliance.
    Wow! How telling! He goes immediately to the stick!

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