Proposal would Delay Criminal Background Checks by Employers in Seattle until Later in Hiring Process

A proposal by Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell would prevent most employers in the city of Seattle, Washington from denying jobs to job applicants based solely on their criminal history by delaying criminal background checks until later in the hiring process, according to a report from KOMO News Channel 4.

Harrell’s proposed law – designed to give people with criminal records a better chance of entering the workforce and a lesser chance of becoming repeat offenders – would not apply to jobs involving vulnerable people such as children and senior citizens or where public safety issues trumped the law.

“There are many reasons why people recommit, and recidivism is so high because they can’t get access to jobs,” Harrell told KOMO News. “What we’re saying is let’s look at the person. Let’s look at the human being, and then we make wise employment decisions from there.”

Harrell also told KOMO that more than 114,000 people have arrest records in Seattle and more than 409,000 people have criminal records in King County, in which Seattle is located. His proposal will next go to the Seattle City County Council and is expected to be voted on within two months.

A 2010 study by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) – “RECIDIVISM REVISITED” – found the rate of recidivism – defined as “a tendency to slip back into a previous criminal behavior pattern” – for those ex-offenders released from prison in Washington in 2006 was 31.1 percent.

Several cities have joined the ‘Ban the Box’ movement to provide fair employment opportunities for ex-offenders. A ‘Ban the Box’ Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) features a list of cities that have removed the box asking about an applicant’s criminal history from applications.

Also, in April 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – updated its Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We are suggesting to private employers that they consider a ‘ban the box’ approach,” says Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to pre-employment screening.

“Asking about criminal records early in the hiring process serves as a knock-out punch before candidates have a chance to be considered on their qualifications, and unnecessarily exposes employers to allegations they are automatically tossing out applications with a criminal record,” says Rosen.

“An employer is better served using good hiring techniques based upon neutral factors to whittle down the applicant pool,” he explains. “At some appropriate time when an employer has narrowed the field, an appropriate criminal question can be asked. Asking it early really does not accomplish that much.”

Rosen also says that when employers ask about a past criminal record, “they need to make an effort to not ask a broadly worded question that may encompass criminal records that are either too old or irrelevant for the job, since that can have the impact of imposing a lifetime ban on an applicant.”

For information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at


About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more, visit, call 888.999.4474, or email

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