DeSoto Council Adopts “Fair Chance” Employment Policy

City of DeSoto govt building
DeSoto Government Building

Ordinance Will Aid Justice-Involved Job Candidates

The DeSoto City Council has taken a bold step towards ensuring employment fairness by passing a measure by a 6-1 vote at its April 6th meeting to prohibit DeSoto-based businesses with 15 or more employees from asking applicants if they had a criminal history during their initial application for employment.

This requirement does not ignore the importance of determining relevant criminal history, prevent the use of criminal background checks, or prevent employers from asking about criminal history later in the recruitment process. It is designed to prevent discrimination and the outright rejection during the initial application review of a potentially valuable worker who has already paid their debt to society.

“DeSoto is a city that believes in second chances, and we also believe that people who are able and willing to work to support themselves and their families should have the opportunity to do so, but there are many who have paid their debts to society who can’t secure a decent job because stating that they have a criminal record on a job application almost immediately eliminates them from consideration” observed DeSoto Mayor Rachel Proctor.

Mayor Proctor pointed out that the DeSoto City Council and City Government were acting to prevent the downward spiral that an outright reaction causes by encouraging fairness for our justice-involved residents while benefiting our community as a whole. The Mayor praised her City Council colleagues for stepping up to face a very challenging issue, “I would like to thank our Council for making this courageous and just decision and offer special thanks to Councilmember Candice Quarles for starting this dialog within our City Council.”

“Fair Chance Hiring increases opportunities for successful re-entry back into society. An ACLU study showed that you are almost two times as likely to go back to prison if you are unemployed,” observed Councilmember Quarles. “Removing this barrier to employment will allow those who have paid their debt to society to become contributing members of society once again. We shouldn’t punish them for a lifetime for their worst mistake. DeSoto will be safer because of it.”

Fair Chance Ordinance Goes Into Effect January 1, 2022

The Fair Chance Ordinance, which will take effect on January 1, 2022, will impact DeSoto business employing 15 or more employees. Non-profit 501 (c), state agencies, and government bodies will be exempt; however, the City of DeSoto will be required to abide by the ordinance in its own hiring practices. Some employers’ specific job searches will also be exempt if a job candidate’s criminal history disqualifies them from a specific type of position based on existing federal, state, local laws or mandated insurance or bond requirements. The City will address complaints and violations under this ordinance with DeSoto employers starting first with written warnings and moving up to issuing fines of up to $500 for subsequent violations.

The DeSoto City Council began conversations regarding the adoption of a Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance in 2020 with formal discussions conducted in February 2021. The City conducted outreach, education, and feedback in February and March including a survey sent to DeSoto residents and businesses before approving the ordinance in April. Based on 201 surveys completed, 61.5% of respondents favored a Fair Chance Ordinance.

You can learn more about this new ordinance by viewing the following:
City Council’s April 6th discussion & vote (Note: Discussion begins at 04:17:00):

Summary of Council Actions:

Ban the Box Town Hall Meeting on March 6th: