Beginning on January 1, 2021, employers in St. Louis City generally may no longer make employment-related decisions, such as hiring or promoting employees, based on an applicant’s criminal history. This is due to the prior passage of Ordinance 71074 by the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen. This Ordinance resulted from the following findings and/or observations:
- Previous involvement with the criminal justice system often creates a significant barrier to employment in that applicants with criminal histories are less likely to be considered for an available job when that information is included on an initial job application;
- Revealing a criminal history on an initial job application often results in an applicant’s elimination from consideration;
- Children and families suffer when people with criminal histories are unable to work or work at jobs that are below their potential given their education and skills;
- People with criminal histories who experience unemployment or underemployment struggle to provide for their families and are more likely to depend on public assistance;
- Children are less likely to receive financial support in the form of child-support when a parent has a criminal history;
- Removing job barriers for people with criminal histories helps the economy grow. Military veterans who have experienced the criminal justice system often face additional hurdles in rejoining the workforce;
- Providing employment opportunities for people with criminal histories makes our communities safer because when people with criminal histories are gainfully employed, they are significantly less likely to re-offend; and society expects adults who can work to seek and maintain employment.
However, it is important to note that the new Ordinance does not prohibit all employers in St. Louis City from considering criminal histories in the employment context. First, the new Ordinance only applies to “employers located in the City of St. Louis with ten or more employees.” This is significant for small businesses in St. Louis City who may find it particularly important to understand criminal histories for making sensitive hiring or promotion decisions in their industry.
Second, the new Ordinance allows consideration of criminal histories under certain circumstances. The language of the new Ordinance addresses this reality: an employer may base a hiring or promotional decision on a job applicant’s criminal history or sentence if the employer can demonstrate “the employment-related decision is based on all information available including the frequency, recentness and severity of the criminal history and the history is reasonably related to or bears upon the duties and responsibilities of the job position.”
Third, the new Ordinance contains some specific wrinkles and rules about job posting in relation to criminal histories and the timing of inquiries related to criminal histories. For example, covered employers may not:
- Inquire about a job applicant’s criminal history until after it has been determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the job position, and only after the applicant has been interviewed for position except that such an inquiry may be made of all job applicants who are in the final selection pool from which the position will be filled;
- Publish job advertisements excluding applicants on the basis of criminal history, regardless of whether such advertisements are in hardcopy or electronic format;
- Include statements excluding applicants on the basis of criminal history in job application forms and other employer generated forms used in the hiring process, regardless of whether such forms are in hardcopy or electronic format;
- Inquire into, or require applicants to make disclosures regarding their criminal history on initial job application forms and other employer generated forms used in the initial phase of the hiring process, whether such forms are in hardcopy or electronic format;
- Seek to obtain publicly available information concerning job applicants’ criminal history.
Given these various rules and requirements, it is important to consult with counsel to make sure newly recognized rights and duties are properly accounted for and taken into consideration in employment-related decision-making processes. Violations of these new rules may result in complaints filed with the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency and other penalties, from warnings to fines to revocation of a business license. Contact our office should you have questions or concerns about this new Ordinance.