Policy Will Curb Discrimination by City Contractors Against Job Applicants with Prior Convictions
BATON ROUGE, LA—The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council voted 7-5 to approve an ordinance Wednesday that will require employers receiving money from the Parish to engage in “fair chance” hiring practices. The policy builds on a 2016 ordinance aimed at providing opportunities to apply for Parish jobs to formerly incarcerated persons or people with former convictions and expands it to cover public contractors as well. Under the ordinance, these employers will be required to first consider applicants on their merits—removing the “prior conviction box” from application forms and only conducting a background check if a conditional offer is presented.
“A prior conviction should not be a scarlet letter that causes employers to shut the door on qualified job applicants,” said Lynda Turner, Baton Rouge Fair Chance member, who is formerly incarcerated. “This ordinance means more Baton Rouge residents will get a fair chance to rebuild their lives and support their families. We have a long way to go to erase the stigma of criminalization and build the systems of rehabilitation our community needs, but seven councilmembers showed real leadership today by supporting Fair Chance Hiring.”
Wednesday’s ordinance was sponsored by Chauna Banks and was supported by The Baton Rouge Fair Chance Coalition, a group of community organizations devoted to opening opportunities for Baton Rouge residents excluded from the labor market by past convictions.
“Today’s victory shows the strength our coalition has built over the past year and what is possible when ordinary citizens speak directly to their elected representatives about the issues that impact their lives,” said Power Coalition Community Organizer Kaitlyn Joshua, a member of the Baton Rouge Fair Chance Coalition. “We are so grateful to the Metro Council members who believed in this ordinance and in this possibility and who exemplified leadership by supporting it. Second chances are possible and fair chances are possible for more people than ever now in East Baton Rouge Parish.”
In addition to expanding fair chance hiring practices to contractors receiving public money, the ordinance creates a procurement process that will allow for more transparency around best hiring practices. Although it does not mandate any hiring decisions, the ordinance does encourage employers to hire applicants when the conviction(s) that come back on a background check are irrelevant to the job requirements or skills.
The effort to implement Fair Chance Hiring grew out of community input collected by Step Up Louisiana about the policy changes Baton Rouge residents most wanted to see in their community. Fair chance hiring has been shown to improve public safety by increasing economic opportunity and reducing recidivism. It also has been shown to be good for the economy, supporting small businesses by growing the labor force and reducing turnover by attracting loyal employees.
A tremendous movement wide campaign led to this victory through consistent organizing by multiple organizations: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, Step Up Louisiana, Voice of the Experienced, Louisiana Progress, Justice and Accountability Center, East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, Local Liuna 99 union, Moms Demand Action, Capital Area ReEntry Coalition, and LORI, collectively known as the Baton Rouge Fair Chance Coalition.
Contact: Kaitlyn Joshua, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice
Kisha Edwards, Step Up Louisiana Baton Rouge