New Grand Rapids Human Rights Ordinance Places New Limits on Employers: What You Need to Know

Grand_Rapids_employment_lawyerIn August, the Grand Rapids City Commission passed a series of extensive amendments to its Human Rights Ordinance, expanding protections against discrimination and creating new remedies for those victimized by prohibited conduct. For employers in the city, these amendments, which became effective on December 1, 2019, may require a review and adjustment of company employment policies and practices.

In addition to adding “familial status” to the list of protected classes, the amended ordinance contains the following provisions that all Grand Rapids employers need to know about.

Background Screening and Consideration of Criminal History

While the ordinance permits employers to consider a candidate’s history of criminal convictions when making employment decisions, employers may not consider arrests that did not result in convictions. However, the Deputy City Attorney has opined that employers may consider pending charges in their hiring decisions.

If an employer does consider a candidate’s criminal convictions during the hiring process, they must do so on a “case-by-case” basis. Before making an employment decision involving a candidate with a criminal record, an employer must take into account:

  • The nature of the crime.
  • The age of the individual at the time of the crime.
  • Whether the candidate has committed repeat offenses.
  • Whether the individual maintained a good employment history before or after the conviction.
  • Evidence of rehabilitation efforts.
  • Whether the crime for which the individual was convicted may pose a demonstrable risk to the health, safety, or welfare of other employees or persons or to property.

Additionally, employers cannot adopt an “outright ban” on prospective employees with criminal backgrounds.

Whistleblower Protections and Employee Remedies

Employers cannot retaliate against any employee (or anyone else) for filing a complaint alleging violations of the ordinance, testifying or providing evidence regarding alleged violations, or opposing violations of the ordinance.

The Ordinance also establishes a private cause of action for injunctive relief and/or damages and allows the city to impose penalties and seek injunctive relief for violations of the ordinance.

Speak With a Grand Rapids Employment Law Attorney Today

Given the potential consequences of a violation and the new prohibitions that impact the hiring process, it is critical that companies that employ workers in Grand Rapids ensure that their policies comport with the new ordinance.

If you have questions or concerns about these changes, the Grand Rapids employment law attorneys at Kreis Enderle can provide you with sound, straightforward counsel to guide your decision-making. To discuss your situation, please contact Jesse Young at JYoung@kehb.com or (269) 324-3000.

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