In a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Seattle City Council has passed a Job Assistance Bill to reduce criminal recidivism by providing job assistance to individuals with previous criminal records. Council Bill 117796 will prohibit public and private employers in Seattle from automatically excluding individuals with any arrest or conviction record from consideration for employment. A news release about the passing of the Job Assistance Bill – which will take effect November 1, 2013 if approved by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn as expected – is available at

According to the news release, Council Bill 117796 will maintain safeguards currently in place protecting businesses from violent criminals and unsafe employees. While employers may inquire about criminal histories of job applicants after completing an initial screening to eliminate unqualified applicants, they may not reject qualified applicants solely based on their criminal record unless they have:

  • Identified to the employee or applicant the record or information on which they are basing their employment decision;
  • Provided the applicant or employee a reasonable opportunity to explain or correct the information and hold the position open for a minimum of two business days after notifying the applicant or employee to provide them a meaningful opportunity to respond; and,
  • A “legitimate business reason” for making the employment decision.

Council Bill 117796 defines “legitimate business reason” as existing when, based on information known to the employer at the time the employment decision is made, the employer believes in good faith that the nature of the criminal conduct underlying the conviction or the pending criminal charge either:

  • Will have a negative impact on the employee’s or applicant’s fitness or ability to perform the position sought or held, or
  • Will harm or cause injury to people, property, business reputation, or business assets, and the employer has considered the following factors: a.) the seriousness of the underlying criminal conviction or pending criminal charge, and; b.) the number and types of convictions or pending criminal charges, and; c.) the time that has elapsed since the conviction or pending criminal charge, excluding periods of incarceration, and; d.) any verifiable information related to the individual’s rehabilitation or good conduct, provided by the individual, and; e.) the specific duties and responsibilities of the position sought or held, and; f.) the place and manner in which the position will be performed.

Employers violating this new chapter of the Seattle Municipal Code, ‘14.17 The Use of Criminal History in Employment Decisions,’ will receive a notice of infraction and offer of assistance for the first violation, a monetary penalty of up to $750 for the second violation, and a monetary penalty of up to $1000 for each subsequent violation. This ordinance shall take effect on November 1, 2013. The full text of the Job Assistance Bill is available here: Seattle City Council Bill 117796.

Seattle will be the latest U.S. city to join the “Ban the Box” movement calling for the removal of the checkbox on job applications asking about criminal records. According to an April 2013 Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), no less than 50 cities and counties in the United States have already adopted “Ban the Box” reforms. The Resource Guide from NELP – a non-profit organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers – is available at

The “Ban the Box” trend is one of the ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2013’ chosen by Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) available at Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’ – is a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For more information, visit or call Toll Free 888.999.4474.


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 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 [email protected]. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit