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City of Spokane Enacts Fair Chance Ordinance

By Michael Klazema on 3/22/2018

On November 27, 2017, the City of Spokane City Council passed a new ordinance that prohibits private sector employers from requesting and considering criminal history until after an interview.   The ordinance covers all types of work including “temporary or seasonal work, contracted work, contingent work and work through the services of a temporary or other employment agency; or any form of vocational or educational training, whether offered with or without pay.” Spokane employers will have until June 14, 2018 to comply with the new ordinance, although the City will not enforce it until 2019.

The ordinance applies to all private employers in the Spokane city limits except the following:

  • To any employer hiring an employee who will have unsupervised access to children under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults or persons as defined under state law;
  • To employers who are expressly permitted or required under any federal or Washington state law to inquire into, consider, or rely on information about an applicant’s arrest or conviction record for employment purposes;
  • To certain law enforcement agencies as defined under state law; or
  • Where criminal background checks are specifically permitted or required under state or federal law.

Prohibition
Under section 09.02.050, employers cannot:

  • Advertise employment openings in a way that excludes people with arrest or conviction records from applying, such as using advertisements which state “no felons,” “no criminal background,” or which otherwise convey similar messages; provided, employers may advertise the requirement for a criminal history inquiry and/or background check during or after the interview process as long as such advertisement does not state that an arrest or conviction record will automatically preclude the applicant from consideration for employment;
  • Include any question in an application for employment, inquire orally or in writing, receive information through a criminal history background check, or otherwise obtain information about an applicant’s arrest or conviction record prior to an in-person, telephonic, or video interview or a conditional offer of employment;
  • Use, distribute, or disseminate an applicant’s or employee’s  arrest or conviction except as required or otherwise allowed by law;
  • Disqualify an applicant before an in-person, telephonic, or video interview solely because of a prior arrest or conviction unless the conviction is related to significant duties of the job or disqualification is otherwise allowed by this chapter; or
  • Disqualify an applicant for failure to disclose a criminal record before initially determining the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. 

The ordinance states there is no prohibition towards employers from inquiring into or obtaining information about a job applicant’s criminal conviction or arrest record during an in-person, telephonic, or video interview, or after the conclusion of such a job interview, or after a conditional offer of employment, and using such information in a hiring decision.

Penalty
An employer who violates the ordinance will have to pay a class one civil infraction in the amount of $261, and subsequent fines may be doubled. 

What This Means to You:

  • This applies to private employers in the City of Spokane.
  • Spokane employers may not request criminal background information on a job application or before the earlier of a job interview or a conditional offer of employment.
  • Employers may advertise the requirement for a criminal history inquiry and/or background check during or after the interview process as long as such advertisement does not state that an arrest or conviction record will automatically preclude the applicant from consideration for employment.
  • Employers must not disqualify applicants before a job interview based on criminal history unless a conviction is related to significant duties of the job.
  • Employers must not disqualify applicants based on the applicant’s failure to disclose a criminal record before initially determining that the applicants are qualified.
  • Employers can face enforcement action after the one year probation period if they advertise for jobs indicating felons are not allowed to apply, if they include a question about criminal history on applications, or ask about it before conducting a job interview.
  • The ordinance does not prevent employers from conducting background checks or replace state and federal laws that require background checks for certain professions, including working with “unsupervised children under the age of sixteen, developmentally disabled persons, or vulnerable adults in facilities or operations that are licensed, relicensed, or contracted by the state of Washington.”

The ordinance is accessible here for review: 
http://www.nelp.org/content/uploads/Spokane-City-Ordinance-2017-executed.pdf


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