Washington State Limits Criminal Background Checks in Hiring

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Terence Hyland

Washington became the latest state to approve “ban the box” legislation prohibiting employers in the state from asking job seekers about arrests or convictions before it is determined if they are qualified for a position.

Twenty-four other states, plus the District of Columbia, already have adopted some form of legislation to limit criminal background checks of job applicants, according to the State Law Chart Builders database on Bloomberg Law’s Labor & Employment Practice Center. Seattle already had a similar background check restriction in place. The Emerald City’s Fair Chance Employment Ordinance took effect in November 2013.

In addition to restricting criminal background inquiries, Washington’s Fair Chance Act (SSB 1298) prohibits employers from advertising job openings in a way that would exclude people with criminal records from applying. Any practice that automatically rejects from consideration any applicants with criminal records would also be prohibited.

“People who have served their time need to have a chance to be employed again. This legislation will help many in Washington,” Inslee said on Twitter March 13 after signing the bill.

The law provides exemptions for employers hiring for positions that serve certain vulnerable people, as well as those in certain financial institutions and law enforcement.

Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature helped push the bill through this year, after a similar measure died in the state Senate in 2017. The bill specifies the law will take effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns. The Legislature wrapped up its session late March 8.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law