Washington and its counties, cities, and communities have several laws, regulations, and ordinances that restrict or control the use of employment-related background screenings. Below, we have compiled a list of relevant restrictions, all of which you should understand before using a Washington State background check for employment purposes.
Employers in Washington are permitted to consider arrest records as part of the candidate screening process. The limitations are 1) only records from the past 10 years can be considered, 2) employers must ask whether the candidate’s arrest charges have been dismissed or are still pending, and 3) employers must ask if the arrest in question led to a criminal conviction that is relevant to the job at hand.
Sealed, Expunged, or Vacated Cases
If a conviction has been expunged or sealed, it is as if it does not exist for these purposes. These cases should not appear on a Washington State background check or any other type of background screening. If the case in question has been vacated, it will not be reported on a Washington State Patrol background check but might still appear on other types of background checks.
If a Washington State Patrol background check uncovers a criminal conviction, employers can ask a candidate about it. However, before inquiring about the conviction or taking adverse employment action, the employer must ascertain the crime is “reasonably related” to the responsibilities of the job in question. Employers are not allowed to consider or inquire about any criminal convictions more than 10 years old.
Ban the Box
Washington has no statewide ban the box policy for private or public employers. However, several jurisdictions in the state have adopted local laws or ordinances that prohibit employers from asking questions about criminal history on job applications. Seattle and Spokane ban the box for private and public employers and for government contractors. Spokane County, Pierce County, and Tacoma County have their own ban the box policies in place. None of these jurisdictions ban the use of background checks. Tacoma does require employers to hold off on conducting background checks until after extending conditional offers of employment.
Laws in the state of Washington significantly limit employers’ abilities to conduct credit background checks on their candidates. Employers are barred from obtaining any report about a candidate’s creditworthiness, credit history, or credit standing unless one of the following criteria is met: