City of Columbia, SC Clarifies Coverage of Criminal Records and Salary History Ordinance

Last year, the City of Columbia, South Carolina enacted an ordinance that appeared to require substantial changes to private employers’ criminal record and salary history inquiry practices. At the time of enactment, the ordinance defined a covered “employer” as the “City, private employers and government contracts; and any person regularly employing five or more persons, any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly; or any person undertaking for compensation to procure employees or opportunities for employment.”  There was a disconnect, however, between this plain-text definition of “employer” and various other portions of the ordinance and public statements about the ordinance that otherwise suggested the City had actually not intended to cover private employers. 

Shortly after the news of the ordinance’s passage, a coalition of interested private employers wrote a detailed letter to the Mayor and City Council requesting that the ordinance be amended to cover only the practices of the City itself.1 We are informed that other interested stakeholders and groups contacted the City on the issue as well. 

As a result, the City of Columbia City Council has now formally amended the ordinance to omit any coverage of private employers in the definition of “employer.”  The amended ordinance now reads that “Employer” is defined to include only “the City of Columbia as a municipal corporation.”2

Therefore, private employers with no contracts or vending relationship with the City of Columbia can now confidently conclude they are not covered by the criminal history and salary history ordinance.  City vendors should continue to monitor the City’s practices and contracts issued by the City, though, because the ordinance presently “encourages” City vendors “to adopt and employ conviction and wage history policies, practices, and standards that are consistent with City standards.”  The ordinance also still provides that the City can review vendors’ practices on these topics as part of the “criteria to be evaluated by the City when determining whether to award a City contract.”

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Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.