Atlanta Makes “Criminal History Status” a Protected Class

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On October 17, the Atlanta City Council passed Ordinance 22-O-1748, which amended the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances Chapter 94 (Human Relations) in several places by including “criminal history status” as a protected class. The Ordinance went into effect immediately.

What Does This Ordinance Accomplish?

Under the law, it is now an unlawful employment practice for employers to fail or refuse to hire, terminate or otherwise discriminate against an individual due to criminal history status. Employers may also not publish or circulate job advertisements indicating any preference, limitation, specification or discrimination based on criminal history status.

Any adverse employment decisions based on criminal history status must take into account how the criminal history related to the position’s responsibilities using the following considerations:

  1. whether the individual committed the offense;

  2. the nature and gravity of the offense;

  3. the time since the offense; and

  4. the nature of the job for which the applicant has applied. 

Nothing in the Ordinance prohibits an employer from making an adverse employment decision based on criminal history status when related to positions where certain criminal convictions are a bar to employment under state or federal law requirements, such as positions that work with children or law enforcement.

Questions Arise

With respect to the specific considerations, the latter three factors generally align with many fair chance laws across the country; however, the first consideration is rather unique and raises several questions. For example, does the employer need to double-check the accuracy of any background check information obtained? What if the applicant claims they didn’t actually commit the offense but were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? What about pending cases where an individual is innocent until proven guilty?

The Atlanta City Council or the Human Relations Commission may need to weigh in with further clarity.

Employers, Here's The Key Takeaway

Given the law’s immediate effective date, employers are encouraged to consult with qualified legal counsel to determine what impact these changes to the law may have on their hiring program. 

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