New bill could open doors of employment for people with criminal records

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Lawmakers kick off the start of the 2021 state legislature.

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BATON ROUGE, La (KLFY) — The Louisiana House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations will take up a new bill, which would open the door for people with criminal records to get jobs, on Thursday.

The Fair Chance in Hiring Act, HB 480, was introduced by Rep. Matt Willard (New Orleans) in an attempt to open more opportunities of employment for people with criminal records who are often screened out of jobs based on inaccurate blanket background checks or misunderstandings about confusing arrest records, according to a press release from Red Cypress Consulting.

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.

HB 480 aims to redefine how businesses in Louisiana screen out job applicants by directing businesses not to consider arrests that did not result in convictions. The bill also asks asks businesses to take into account how recent and the nature of any convictions.

“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 fear they will suffer a humiliating rejection when the employer runs a background check,” the press release stated.

“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%.”

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