Atlanta Bans Criminal History Discrimination

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 18, 2022

Atlanta has joined the list of jurisdictions banning the use of criminal history in hiring. These laws seek to counteract the stigma individuals with a criminal record often face when seeking employment.

The city's Human Relations Code has been modified to make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to refuse to hire, discharge or otherwise discriminate against an individual on the basis of criminal history status. The ordinance took effect immediately upon approval and applies to employers with 10 or more employees, as well as employment agencies and labor organizations.

An exception applies if an employer's decision on the basis of a person's criminal history was based on the relationship between the criminal history and the responsibilities of a particular position, considering:

  • Whether the individual committed the offense in question;
  • The nature and gravity of the offense;
  • The time since the offense; and
  • The nature of the job.

Employers also remain free to make decisions based on a person's criminal history if certain convictions or violations bar the individual from holding a particular position under state or federal law.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia, along with many localities, restrict or prohibit the use of criminal background information in hiring decisions for private employers. These laws vary from basic prohibitions on inquiring into criminal history on an initial job application to more extensive requirements that employers establish a relationship between an individual's criminal background and the requirements of a particular job before disqualifying the person on because of their criminal history.

The ordinance also added gender expression as a protected characteristic in the city.