Gainesville, FL Initiating ‘Fair Chance Hiring’

March 11, 2022 Criminal Defense

Gainesville Initiating ‘Fair Chance Hiring’ to Avoid Rejecting Applicants from Jobs Based on Past Arrests

A new law is being proposed in Gainesville that deals with the hiring process. It is meant to ensure that individuals who have been arrested in the past are not prevented from getting hired. In the past, people who have criminal records have had a harder time getting hired. Now, the new ordinance titled “Fair Chance Hiring” would prevent businesses in Gainesville with 15 or more employees from rejecting applicants with past arrests. A review of background checks in Florida, as well as the rules under the proposed law will be reviewed.

Types of Background Checks in Florida

Typically, when you apply for a job in the state of Florida, there are two types of background checks that may be used:

  • Level 1 Check – A level 1 check is a state-only name-based check. This would cover past employment history, criminal records, and whether or not you are listed on the state’s sex offender registry. Often it can include a credit check as well. If you are having a level 1 check completed, the individual shouldn’t be awaiting arrest or have any record or felony or delinquency which is prohibited in the Florida Statutes. This would give the employer reason for denying hire in most cases.
  • Level 2 Check – The level 1 check covers both state and national records. It is a fingerprint-based check that includes a comprehensive background check done by the FDLE and the FBI. This check would be mandatory for any job or position where the person hired is certain level of responsibility or trust.

What is Typically Included in Pre-employment Background Checks?

If the job you are applying for runs a background check and your criminal record is revealed, the Florida pre-employment background check may include the following information:

  • Information on the charge(s)
  • The date the case was filed
  • The disposition of the case
  • The disposition date
  • The level of the offense (whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony)
  • Information on sentencing or conviction

What Does the Proposed Change Include?

The city’s proposed “Fair Chance Hiring” law is intended to bar employers from questioning the applying person’s criminal record. After an offer is made to the applying person for employment, the employer could then run a criminal background check on them. However, even if the applicant has a prior record of an arrest, if there was no conviction, it cannot be used against them to take back the offer of employment. Even in the case that there was a conviction, the “Fair Chance” would give the applicant the chance to explain the conviction, in hopes to prevent employers from immediately dismissing their application.

The law would have the Office of Equity and Inclusion enforcing and investigating hiring cases around the city. If there are any violations from businesses, they will at first receive a warning, and then a fine from the city of Gainesville. The agreement was made by commissioners during the General Policy Committee meeting on February 24th, 2022.

During the committee meeting, the proposal of the law included getting recommendations from the grassroots organization Community Spring, who focus on economic justice. Community Spring included the following requests for Florida employers:

  • Employers should consider the age of the applicant during the time of the offense, consider rehabilitation that was completed after the offense, and the individual’s good conduct since the offense.
  • Employers should provide applicants with copies of records and documents that are used in making employment decisions.
  • Employers should provide applicants with the opportunity to provide more information relating to their criminal record.

When applying for jobs, a lot of the time someone’s criminal history can prevent them from moving forward and finding a career. Community Spring provided a statement regarding the “fair chance” proposal saying, “Many of them are turned away from jobs without being fully considered, despite saying that about one out of every three adults in the U.S. has an arrest or conviction on their record.”

According to a report by the Prison Policy, the rate of unemployed people who were formerly incarcerated is currently over 27%, which is even higher than the rate of unemployment during the Great Depression. In addition, people of color suffer even more—and are treated more harshly if they have a prior criminal record in comparison to white people.

Max Tipping, one of the lawyers for Community Spring, gave the comment, “The negative impact of a criminal record on getting a job interview is 40% greater for blacks than for whites with similar histories.” He believes that with the new law, there can be a balance created, “for something that is going to be truly meaningful and make a difference while also making sure it is not a burden on employers.”

Gainesville is not the first city to initiate this type of law. Chicago, Illinois and Waterloo, Iowa are both cities that already have a fair hiring law included in their employment process.

“This is not some radical idea anymore,” said Tipping.

Are There Any Exceptions?

While the proposed initiative can be extremely beneficial to people across Florida searching for a job, there are some limitations. For instance, certain jobs require that a criminal background check be completed under state law before getting hired. Under Florida Statute section 435.02, it defines “specified agencies” in Florida in need of criminal background checks. The following list includes:

  • Department of Health
  • Department of Children and Families
  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education
  • Agency for Health Care Administration
  • Department of Elderly Affairs
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Agency for Persons with Disabilities

These types of agencies are required to conduct state and national criminal background screenings for people who are attempting to work with children, the elderly, or people with disabilities.

The Mayor of Gainesville, Lauren Poe, also addressed some exceptions to the proposed law. Such exceptions include allowing employers to weigh arrests such as domestic violence. A domestic violence conviction can be difficult to confirm due to the intimidation from witnesses or backtracked statements. Poe also wishes to take recommendations from organizations and forward them to The Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce for input.

Example Cases

For one woman, the “fair chance” proposed law could be her way to finally find a stable job and allow her to explain the details of her conviction. Latashia Brimm was convicted of a felony after being accused of fraud. She had been living in Section 8 Housing in Florida and allowed a friend to move in with her after their home was foreclosed on.

When reporting to her caseworker about her income, she was accused of fraud for not including the friend’s income who had moved in. Brimm now has a felony conviction on her criminal record, but she believes that the newly proposed ordinance will help prevent potential employers from immediately rejecting her.

What About Other Cities in Florida?

Gainesville appears to be the starting point in what could be a vast difference in the way Florida employers go about hiring. It can be extremely exclusive to throw out applicants solely based on their past criminal record. Even if someone has made a mistake in the past, it does not mean they cannot turn their life around and try to move on. With the proposed changes in Gainesville, perhaps Florida can move forward and start working towards a more open and inclusive hiring system – one where applicants can be chosen based on their skills and personal experience rather than whether or not they’ve been arrested in the past. 

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been mistreated or excluded based on your past criminal history, you may be in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Don’t let one mistake ruin the rest of your life. Just because something is on your criminal record does not mean you are not entitled to finding a career path you feel passionate about. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all over the state of Florida for all types of criminal cases. Whether you’ve been accused of a crime or need legal advice, Don and his legal team are here to help. Call (850) 681-7777 today and receive a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top