Legislation and Compliance Update: Seattle to Decide Whether to Ban the Box

By Michael Klazema on 11/20/2012

Seattle’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology committee is expected to vote on the proposed Work Assistance ordinance in January 2013. If passed, the proposed “ban-the-box” regulation will ban the box on a job application that ask applicants to disclose arrest or conviction history, and substantially limit an employer’s use of criminal history when making employment decisions. 

The Work Assistance ordinance designates it an unfair employment practice for any employer within the City to discharge, refuse to hire, or take other adverse employment action because of a[n]:

  1. arrest record,
  2. conviction record, unless a direct relationship exists between the conviction record and the employment held or sought, or
  3. pending criminal charge, unless a direct relationship exists between the pending criminal charge and the employment held or sought.

Additionally, employers would be prohibited from obtaining or considering information about an applicant’s arrest or criminal conviction record or pending criminal charge, including asking a job applicant to supply such information until the employer has given the applicant a conditional offer of employment.

The legislation considers a “direct relationship” exists when the nature of the criminal conduct in question has a direct bearing or connection to the employee’s or applicant’s fitness or ability to perform the job position sought or held, or when it is reasonably foreseeable that employing the applicant or employee will result in harm or injury to persons or property. Employers would be required to consider factors such as the:

  1. seriousness and the number of criminal convictions or pending criminal charges;
  2. number and types of convictions or pending charges;
  3. amount of time that has elapsed since the conviction or pending charge, excluding
  4. periods of incarceration;
  5. verifiable information, if any, related to the individual’s rehabilitation or good conduct;
  6. specific duties and responsibilities of the job position; and,
  7. employer’s legitimate interest in protecting people, property, and its business reputation.

This proposed ordinance would apply to any person who has one or more employees within the City, or the employer’s designee, or any person acting in the interest of the employer.

However, if passed, it would not apply to any employer who (i) provides services to, houses, or has access to, or otherwise cares for any person who is under the age of 18, or vulnerable persons, or persons under the age of twenty-one and has been sentence to confinement; (ii) provides law enforcement, policing, crime prevention, security, or private investigator service; or, (iii) is expressly permitted or required under any federal or state law to inquire into, consider, or rely on information about an applicant’s or employee’s arrest or criminal conviction record or pending criminal charges for employment purposes.  Finally, it will not be considered an unfair employment practice for an employer to disqualify an applicant or employee whose criminal conviction record includes a conviction for, or who is under pending criminal charges for embezzlement, theft, fraud, or any other financial crime from employment in a position involving access to money, financial information, or personal identifying information of customers, employees, or members of the public. will continue to monitor this proposed legislation and will let you know if/when the City of Seattle decides to ban the box.

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