Starting November 1, 2013, employers in Seattle, Washington will need to comply with new “Ban the Box” legislation – Ordinance 124201 – that limits the use criminal history records by employers for employment screening during the initial hiring process. The text of Ordinance 124201, which creates 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.
As reported earlier on ESR News, Ordinance 124201 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.” Under ‘Chapter 14.17.020 Prohibited Use of Arrest and Conviction Records’ of the ordinance approved in June 2013, these restrictions apply:
- A. No employer shall advertise, publicize, or implement any policy or practice that automatically or categorically excludes all individuals with any arrest or conviction record from any employment position that will be performed in whole or in substantial part (at least 50% of the time) within the City.
- B. An employer may perform a criminal background check on a job applicant or require a job applicant to provide criminal history information, but only after the employer has completed an initial screening of applications or resumes to eliminate unqualified applicants.
- C. An arrest is not proof that a person has engaged in unlawful conduct. Employers shall not carry out a tangible adverse employment action solely based on an employee’s or applicant’s arrest record.
- D. Employers may inquire about the conduct related to an arrest record. Employers shall not carry out a tangible adverse employment action solely based on the conduct relating to an arrest unless the employer has a legitimate business reason for taking such action.
- E. Employers shall not carry out a tangible adverse employment action solely based on an employee’s or applicant’s criminal conviction record or pending criminal charge, unless the employer has a legitimate business reason for taking such action.
- F. Before taking any tangible adverse employment action solely based on an applicant’s or employee’s criminal conviction record, the conduct relating to an arrest record, or pending criminal charge, the employer shall identify to the applicant or employee the record(s) or information on which they are relying and give the applicant or employee a reasonable opportunity to explain or correct that information.
- G. Employers shall hold open a position for a minimum of two business days after notifying an applicant or employee that they will be making an adverse employment decision solely based on their criminal conviction record, the conduct relating to an arrest record, or pending charge in order to provide an applicant or employee a reasonable opportunity to respond, correct or explain that information. After two business days, employers may, but are not required, to hold open a position until a pending charge is resolved or adjudicated or questions about an applicant’s criminal conviction history or conduct relating to an arrest are resolved.
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 data resoundingly confirms when employment rates increase, crime decreases. This is a means to reduce recidivism and make our streets and Seattle safer,” stated City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee in a press release about the passing of the Job Assistance Bill available at http://council.seattle.gov/2013/06/10/seattle-city-council-passes-job-assistance-bill/.
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 “Ban the Box” Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), more than 50 cities and counties and ten states have adopted similar reforms. The Resource Guide from NELP 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’ selected by Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR). The complete list of trends is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends.php.
For more information about background checks, contact Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – by calling toll free 888.999.4474 or visiting http://www.esrcheck.com.
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.
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