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April 18
Commissioners Approve Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance

Will help job applicants with criminal backgrounds compete fairly in hiring process

The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during its regular meeting Monday, April 18, to approve the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance. The new ordinance will implement several changes to the county's hiring process to ensure fairness for applicants who have been convicted of a crime in the past.

"Many men and women with criminal records have strong skills and a desire to turn their lives around," said Commissioner Jessica Holmes. "By instituting this new ordinance, we give them the opportunity to compete fairly for county jobs for which they're qualified."

The new ordinance will:

  • Remove the box from the county's job application form that job seekers must currently check if they have been convicted of an unlawful offense other than a minor traffic violation;
  • Add to the job application form a clear and prominent notice that states the "Position may require a background check. Unless required by state law, a record of conviction will not automatically exclude you from consideration for employment"; and
  • Prescribe how background checks that are required by law or necessary based on the business function of the position are conducted on applicants.

If an applicant has a conviction, the hiring manager will consider a number of factors before eliminating him or her from the applicant pool. They include:

  • The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence;
  • The number of convictions;
  • The individual's age at the time of the offense;
  • Whether hiring the applicant would pose a risk to the business; and
  • Other evidence regarding fitness for the position, such as character references.

Research shows that stable employment is one of the best predictors of post-conviction success. By improving the ability of people with past convictions to reintegrate successfully into their communities, the county will help reduce recidivism, strengthen local families and develop safer communities.

Studies also reveal one in five adults in North Carolina has a criminal record. Currently, more than one million people call Wake County home, and that number is projected to continue increasing for decades to come. Adopting the new ordinance is a strong step forward in addressing the current and future needs of this challenged segment of our growing population.

The request to change the county's personnel ordinance is connected to a national "Ban the Box" movement. Its goal is to increase employment opportunities for people with past criminal convictions by removing questions from the initial employment applications regarding past criminal history, and otherwise, delaying and standardizing consideration of applicants' criminal histories. Through this effort, 19 states, more than 100 cities and towns, and the federal government have implemented fair hiring practices.

The new ordinance will take effect on May 1, 2016.


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