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Austin is First Texas City to Pass 'Ban the Box' Ordinance
Monday, March 28, 2016 7:00 AM

The City Council of Austin received robust feedback from the community about its proposed “Fair Chance Hiring” ordinance that would not allow an employer with 15 or more employees to check an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment was proffered.

The Texas Credit Union Association, in a joint letter with the Texas Bankers Association and the Independent Bankers Association, requested an exemption for financial institutions, and the Council worked with the financial institutions associations to address their concerns.

"Ban the box" laws have been passed by more than a hundred cities around the country and nineteen states to allow convicted criminals to go through the interview process rather than being eliminated when answering the question about convictions.

Although the council did not write a specific exemption for financial institutions, they included language that the ordinance was not applicable to jobs for which federal, state, or local law or compliance with legally mandated insurance or bond requirements disqualifies an individual based on their criminal history.

Suzanne Yashewski, SVP regulatory compliance counsel for the Texas Credit Union Association, testified before the council and reiterated our preference for an explicit exemption. In response, they stated on record that their intent was for the Equal Employment Office to dismiss any complaints made against a business covered by the exception.

The ordinance passed on an 8-2-1 vote. Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair opposed the ordinance, and another member of the council, Sherry Gallo, was absent. The new ordinance goes into effect 10 days from passage. There are no fines for a first offense if the employer receives training on the matter and can be fined up to $500 for repeat violations.

Credit unions with 15 or more employees operating in the city of Austin will need to review the ordinance and may need to update job applications and hiring policies. A copy of the adopted ordinance can be found here.

"Other Texas cities may begin considering Ban the Box ordinances," said Texas Credit Union Association President Jeff Huffman. "Credit unions will need to be aware of efforts locally to adopt such ordinances. Some of these ordinances in other states are more onerous than the City of Austin version."

For more information, contact Texas Credit Union Association President Jeff Huffman at 469-385-6488 or jhuffman@txcua.coop or Suzanne Yashewski, SVP of regulatory compliance at 512-853-8516, syashewski@cornerstoneleague.coop.