To supplement the FCRA, then-Governor Nathan Deal signed Executive Order 02.23.15.03 implementing statewide Ban the Box hiring policies for employers in the public sector in Georgia on February 12, 2015. The Executive Order further stipulated that any inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history cannot be made until the initial stage of the employment application process has passed. Once the criminal history is obtained, it cannot be used to automatically bar the applicant from state employment, and the applicant must be provided with the opportunity to dispute the information in their history. There are certain more sensitive government positions that are exempt from the provisions of the Executive Order. The signing of the Executive Order made history, as Georgia became the first state in the Deep South region to enact such a law.
Additionally, GA Code 35-3-34 (3) (b) – Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) mandates that if an adverse decision is made on the basis of the review of a GCIC report (or similar report from another state) submitted as a mandatory verification requirement during the application process, the applicant will be informed of this decision, including where the report was obtained, specific contents in the report, and exactly how and why the information in the report resulted in the adverse decision. Failure to comply is punishable as a misdemeanor.
There are counties and municipalities in Georgia that have also enacted their own fair hiring and Ban the Box laws:
Albany – Their law, which applies to public sector employers, follows the EEOC criteria relative to the nature and severity of the crime, how long ago the crime was committed, and the nature of the job that the applicant is seeking, in an individualized assessment of criminal history. The Albany law also requires the applicant be provided with a Notice of Denial in the case of an adverse action and be given the opportunity to appeal. Background checks are only conducted if an applicant is selected to be interviewed.
Atlanta – Atlanta has a city ordinance (Atlanta Ordinance No. 14-O-1399, dated Oct. 6, 2014), that covers city employers. It requires a Notice of Denial within 30 days in the case of adverse action, and that the applicant is provided with a copy of any background check was used in making the decision, that highlights the information that resulted in the decision not to hire. Criminal history can only be obtained once it has been determined that the applicant meets the job qualifications.
Augusta – Augusta has a consolidated city-county government that it shares with Richmond County. The Augusta Fair Chance Policy (dated Jan. 5, 2017) applies to both city and county public sector employers. Generally speaking, it applies the EEOC criteria in an individualized assessment of any applicant’s criminal history revealed in a background check. It also implements Ban the Box on its employment applications, and background checks are only conducted after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Applicants must be given the opportunity to explain any negative information.
Cherokee County – The county resolution to Ban the Box applies to the applications for jobs with county public sector employers. The EEOC criteria are used for individualized assessments of criminal records, and applicants are given the opportunity to appeal an adverse decision and demonstrate why their prior convictions should not disqualify them from the job they are seeking.
Columbus – There is a city ordinance (Columbus Ordinance, dated May 29, 2015) that applies to public sector employers that Bans the Box on their applications for non-public safety jobs. Background checks are not requested until after an applicant has been selected to fill a position. An individualized assessment, applying the EEOC criteria, is performed on any criminal history revealed. Applicants are provided with copies of their background checks, upon request. Notices of Denial are provided, and the applicant may be given the opportunity to clarify any inaccuracies, but only case-by-case.
Fulton County – This administrative policy (Fair Criminal Record Screening Policy and Procedure, dated July 16, 2014) applies to county public sector employers. Only certain sensitive positions require background checks, and Ban the Box was implemented on all applications. If a background check is required, it is only conducted after the first interview. Any criminal history discovered is evaluated using the EEOC criteria in an individualized assessment. If there is an adverse action, the applicant is issued a Notice of Denial and a copy of their background check, with any disqualifying information highlighted.
Macon-Bibb County – Macon-Bibb County Commissioners passed an ordinance to Ban the Box on the applications for public sector jobs and public sector licenses on February 17, 2015. Although the county still requires background checks on all applicants, any applicant that is denied employment on the basis of their criminal record will be issued a Notice of Denial and given a copy of their background check, highlighting the information that disqualified them.
South Fulton – The city of South Fulton passed an ordinance (South Fulton Ordinance 2019-004, dated Jan. 22, 2019) that Banned the Box on applications for public sector jobs and also on applications for jobs with vendors that contract with the city. Background checks are postponed until the city/contractor has determined that the applicant is qualified for the position or is being interviewed. The ordinance further specifies that criminal convictions will not prohibit employment with the city, as long as the conviction is not in any way directly related to the job the applicant is applying for.
Note: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel for advice related to your state/locality.