Ban-the-Box Update: Washington State

Effective June 06, 2018: All Washington state employers are prohibited from asking about arrests or convictions before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for the position under the state’s new Fair Chance Act.

Specifically, a Washington employer may not:

(1) include any question on any application for employment,

(2) inquire either orally or in writing,

(3) receive information through a criminal history background check, or

(4) otherwise obtain information

about an applicant’s criminal record (arrests or convictions) until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is “otherwise qualified” for the position.  “Otherwise qualified” is defined as meeting the basic criteria for the position in a job advertisement or description without consideration of a criminal record.  After an applicant is deemed “otherwise qualified,” the employer may inquire into his or her criminal record.

Under the new law, employers may also not advertise any openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying.

The Washington Ban-the-Box law does not pre-empt local legislation in this area.  Seattle, Washington passed a more onerous law in 2013 and Spokane, Washington has a new law in effect on May 28th of this year.

Best Practices Tip:  Washington employers should review and revise their hiring practices, policies, and procedures to comply with the provisions above.  They should also remove any questions pertaining to prior arrest or conviction history from their employment applications and advise hiring personnel that they may not inquire into arrest or conviction history before a conditional offer of employment has been made.

Full text of the Washington law