New Seattle Ban the Box Law Limits Use of Criminal History for Employment Screening Starting November 1

Employers in Seattle, Washington will need to comply with new “Ban the Box” legislation – Ordinance 124201 – that will limit the use criminal history records for employment screening during the initial hiring process starting on November 1, 2013. The complete text of Ordinance 124201, which will create a new ‘Chapter 14.17 The Use of Criminal History in Employment Decisions’ of the Seattle Municipal Code, is available at http://www.clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~archives/Ordinances/Ord_124201.pdf.

Ordinance 124201, approved in June 2013, seeks to “increase public safety and job assistance through reducing criminal recidivism and enhancing positive reentries to society by prohibiting certain adverse employment actions against individuals who have been arrested, convicted, or charged with a crime; and adding Chapter 14.17 to the Seattle Municipal Code.” The law will prohibit employers from hiring policies that automatically exclude applicants because of criminal history such as arrests or convictions.

The new “Ban the Box” law will apply to employers with job applicants, employees, and private contractors who perform at least 50 percent of their work within Seattle city limits. Employers will be prohibited from performing criminal background checks during the initial hiring process or even asking applicants to check a box on initial job applications indicating if they have a criminal history. After initial screenings are completed, employers may perform background checks on qualified applicants subject to certain requirements.

If criminal histories of job applicants will have an adverse (negative) impact, before taking any “tangible adverse action” employers must identify the records to applicants and give applicants an opportunity to explain or correct the information. After adverse actions, employers must hold open the position for at least two (2) business days. Employers may not take any adverse employment action based solely on arrest records, pending charges, or convictions unless they have a “legitimate business reason” that:

  • Will have a negative impact on the employee’s or applicant’s fitness or ability to perform the position sought or held, and;
  • Will harm or cause injury to people, property, business reputation, or business assets, and the employer has considered certain factors outlined in Ordinance 124201.

Under the new law, employers will receive a warning for the first violation and will be fined between $750 to $1000 per offense, plus attorney fees, for subsequent violations. The Seattle Office of Civil Rights, which has sole enforcement authority over the new law, may investigate employers whether or not a complaint has been filed against them.  The complete text of Ordinance 124201 is available at http://www.clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~archives/Ordinances/Ord_124201.pdf.

The new Seattle law is part of a nationwide trend of cities joining the “Ban the Box” movement to limit questions employers may ask about criminal records. According to a Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), more than 50 cities and counties and ten states have adopted “Ban the Box” reforms. A Resource Guide from NELP, a non-profit organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers, is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/495bf1d813cadb030d_qxm6b9zbt.pdf.

The “Ban the Box” movement is one of the ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2013’ selected by Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR). The complete list is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends-for-2013.php. For more information about ESR, a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.

Source: http://www.clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~archives/Ordinances/Ord_124201.pdf

About Employment Screening Resources® (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’– 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 about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.

About ESR News: 

The Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@esrcheck.com. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/feed/. To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/.

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