Louisiana Could Become 14th State to Open Doors to Employment for People with Arrest Records

BATON ROUGE, LA—The Louisiana House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations will take up HB 480, the Fair Chance in Hiring Act on Thursday. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Matt Willard (New Orleans), opens the door to opportunities for employment for people with criminal records who are often screened out of jobs based on inaccurate blanket background checks and misunderstandings about confusing arrest records. Representative Willard is working with business groups like the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the Shreveport Black Chamber of Commerce to garner support, as well as a collection of criminal justice reform and worker advocacy groups known as the Fair Chance in Hiring Committee.

Many businesses in Louisiana aggressively screen out applicants with arrest records without knowledge of their skills or experience. HB 480 would refine these screening processes by directing businesses not to consider arrests that did not result in convictions and by directing them to take into account the recency and nature of any convictions to ensure qualified applicants are not excluded based on past interactions with the criminal justice system that have no bearing on their current fitness for the job they are applying for.

At a time when businesses are struggling to find workers, HB 480 would expand the pool of applicants by limiting both procedural barriers and reducing fear and stigma among formerly incarcerated job applicants who might be discouraged from applying for jobs they are qualified for for fear they will suffer a humiliating rejection when the employer runs a background check. Formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana had an unemployment rate five times higher than the general public in December 2020. Having a job that pays at least $7/hour has also been shown to reduce the probability of re-incarceration for justice-involved individuals by 30%.

 

Thursday’s hearing will feature testimony from formerly incarcerated workers involved in the Fair Chance in Hiring Committee who have struggled to find work under existing law as a result of their criminal records. The members of the Fair Chance in Hiring Committee are Step Up Louisiana, the Justice and Accountability Center, VOTE, First 72+, Power Coalition, LiUNA Local 99, ACLU of Louisiana

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