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Gregson: Open to considering Fair Chance ordinance

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Photo by: Ashley Galvan | Staff Photographer
Austin’s new ordinance, called the Fair Chance Ordinance, delays an employer running a criminal background check until a job candidate is about to be offered a job.

One city councilmember is considering an ordinance that delays employers from asking about job candidates’ criminal history during the application process.

Austin passed a similar Fair Chance Hiring ordinance March 24 requiring private employers to delay asking about job applicants’ criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made. Violating the ordinance will result in fines.

“I certainly can’t speak for my council members, but I think it’ll be something that we would consider,” said Councilman Scott Gregson, Place 5.

Gregson said he agrees with the ordinance and believes it can provide those seeking employment a second chance.

“I think there’s a legitimate reason to give people a chance,” he said. “At that point in time, they’ve paid their debt to society. So, I think it’s a very gracious and fair consideration that Austin has come up with.”

Gregson said an individual with a criminal history could be a valuable employee.

“If they’ve paid their debt to society and come out and shown themselves to be good standing citizens, I could see how there would be a value in hiring someone like that,” Gregson said.

Bradley Hurt, public administration senior and president of College Republicans, said he does not agree with the Fair Chance ordinance in its current language.

“It’s not a good ordinance because it doesn’t actually shield anybody’s background. It’s just delaying the background check,” Hurt said. “If anything, it’s just pushing that hard decision back until the very end of the process, if somebody’s trying to get this job.”

Hurt said if San Marcos city council members considered passing a similar ordinance, he would review its differences with Austin’s, but wouldn’t support it if it was too alike.

Naomi Narvaiz, state Republican executive committeewoman, said she doesn’t agree with Austin’s ordinance and might not support a similar one in San Marcos.

“We have to look at what San Marcos’ council would bring up, but if it’s anything like the Austin ordinance, I don’t think it would benefit anybody,” Narvaiz said. “It would have unintended consequences and it would hurt both parties and not really do anything for the individual that’s seeking to be hired.”

Narvaiz said such an ordinance could lead employers to profile applicants and make assumptions about their criminal histories.

“I believe people deserve a second chance. I believe that very much, but what are we talking about?” she said. “Are we looking at an individual that commits a crime over five years ago or somebody’s that’s just committed a crime? What kind of a crime was it? I believe there’s a lot of different things that need to be looked at before something like this should pass.”

Narvaiz said if council members voted on a similar ordinance, she would consider the wording before deciding to agree with it.

“I don’t think I would favor if it came around, but first I’d have to see what the ordinance says,” she said. “You don’t really know until it’s worded. If they were to bring it up, who knows if it’s worded differently, if something’s added, something’s taken away.”