Washington 'bans the box'

Earlier this month, the Washington Fair Chance Act took effect and implemented ‘ban the box‘ protections for job applicants with criminal records seeking employment in the state of Washington. Now, all west coast states, and some west coast cities (such as Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle), have ‘ban the box’ laws.

The new legislation prohibits both private and public employers from asking about arrests or convictions before job applicants are determined to be otherwise qualified for a position. It does not apply to employers hiring workers with unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults, employers required by federal or state law to ask about criminal records, law enforcement or criminal justice agencies, employers hiring volunteers, and certain self-regulatory organizations.

The statewide WFCA also does not preempt Washington municipalities from enforcing their own ban-the-box ordinances. Currently, Seattle’s Fair Chance Employment Ordinance and Spokane’s Fair Chance Hiring Act are the only two ordinances in Washington.

Proponents of fair-chance reforms say the law allows people with records to transition more easily into the job market. Washington state employers should be proactive in considering whether they need to revise job applications, interview guidelines, or policies and procedures for their criminal background checks.

Nationwide, 31 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted ban-the-box laws. Fifteen major cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have adopted ‘ban the box‘ hiring laws that cover both public- and private-sector employers.

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