Dallas’ business community is questioning whether a so-called “Fair Chance” ordinance that prohibits questions about an applicant’s criminal history, currently being considered by City Council, could lead to unforeseen problems.
If approved, the ordinance would apply to all private businesses with 15 or more employees and prevent questions about criminal history. Businesses that ignore the rule would be fined for each instance of non-compliance; the proposed fine is $500.
To date, 150 cities across 37 states have passed so-called “Fair Chance” ordinances, including DeSoto and Austin. In Austin, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce (TGACC) fiercely opposed a similar ordinance before it was finally passed in 2017.
Having confidence in hiring choices and feeling safe are critical concerns for the manager at one local business.
Arie Jones, a manager at the Live Oak Smoke Shop in Dallas, was unfamiliar with the city’s possible ordinance and expressed surprise to hear that questions about criminal history could soon be prohibited.
Jones believes in second chances but also feels that knowing a person’s background is vital when moving forward in the hiring process.
“A business needs to know whether a person has been convicted of money laundering or stealing before handing over the keys to a business,” she said.
“They might have been reformed, but their past is their past,” Jones told The Dallas Express, adding, “Regardless of a person’s past, it is still relevant to the hiring process.”
Louis Darrouzet, CEO of the Metroplex Civic & Business Association (MCBA), believes it’s a bad idea to regulate what types of questions a business can ask its job applicants while also recognizing the value of a second chance.
“I’ve heard from member companies and their leaders about their concerns around the city’s ordinance,” Darrouzet told The Dallas Express. “On the other hand, the city is creating pathways for people to find better job opportunities.”
Community members don’t want individuals convicted of financial theft working in the banking industry. Likewise, they don’t want someone with a history of automobile theft to be a locksmith, Darrouzet explained.
“In general, yes, we should give people a second chance. But it’s never good to hinder businesses with regulation,” he said.