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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) records reveal 40 businesses were charged in the last year with allegedly violating the Seattle Job Assistance Ordinance, a Ban the Box law that took effect on November 1, 2013 that prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on job applications or advertising that jobs require background checks, reports KING 5 in Seattle, WA.

KING 5 reports a moving company was charged with violating the Ban the Box ordinance in 2014 after posting a job ad on Craigslist stating that applicants needed to pass a background check. A member of the moving company said state law requires them to run background checks on applicants and not hire people convicted of violent crimes, theft, or sexual misconduct.

According to the Seattle Job Assistance Ordinance webpage, the Ban the Box law – SMC 14.17 – sets limits on how employers can use conviction and arrest records for jobs within Seattle city limits. Increased employment opportunities will reduce recidivism, reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and strengthen the community. The Ban the Box ordinance:

  • Prohibits categorical exclusions in job ads (e.g. “Felons need not apply.”)
  • Limits criminal history questions on job applications and criminal background checks until after an employer conducts an initial screening to eliminate unqualified applicants.
  • Requires employers to have a legitimate business reason to deny a job based on a conviction record.
  • Requires an opportunity for an applicant or employee to explain or correct criminal history information.
  • Does not apply to jobs with unsupervised access to children under 16, individuals with developmental disabilities or vulnerable adults
  • Has additional responsibilities and exceptions.

KING 5 reports the Seattle ordinance prohibits excluding job candidates from interviewing with employers based only on criminal records but allows companies to require a background check after the initial interview and screening. This gives ex-offenders a chance to explain themselves and what they can do for a potential employer before their criminal background comes into play.

“The law does not exclude an employer from eventually conducting a background check; it instead, prohibits employers from automatically excluding individuals with any arrest or conviction record from consideration for employment,” read a statement from the office of Seattle City Councilman Bruce Harrell, the person who sponsored the Ban the Box ordinance,” KING 5 reports.

KING 5 reports that the Office of Civil rights recovered $20,000 in settlement money from the 40 businesses charged with violating the Ban the Box ordinance while some of the businesses charged were cleared of any wrongdoing. Still others were found to be exempt from the Ban the Box law since their employees would have access to children or vulnerable populations.

The “Ban the Box” movement aims to persuade employers to remove the check box that asks job applicants if they have a past criminal conviction record from their standard hiring applications. By removing the check box, the criminal history question is delayed until after ex-offenders have a chance to display their knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position to which they applied.

More Ban the Box Information from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – “The Background Check Authority®” – offers employers and Human Resources professionals a complimentary Ban the Box Information Page with links to news, resources, and legislation about the Ban the Box movement. For more information about ESR, call toll free 888.999.4474 or visit

© 2015 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.

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