On March 13, 2018, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Fair Chance Act to extend “Ban the Box” legislation protections to applicants seeking jobs with both public and private employers in the state.
We’ve had many questions surrounding this new Act and wanted to express that the Act itself only pertains to the initial employment application or job posting. As soon as you’ve moved beyond this step in the hiring process, the ability to run a criminal background check is not affected.
The Fair Chance Act prohibits employers from asking about arrests or convictions before applicants are determined otherwise qualified for a position, adds a new chapter to Title 49 RCW (Revised Code of WA), creates a new section, and prescribes penalties. To be specific, the law states:
- An employer may not include any question on any application for employment, inquire either orally or in writing, receive information through a criminal history background check, or otherwise obtain information about an applicant’s criminal record until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Once the employer has initially determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified, the employer may inquire into or obtain information about a criminal record.
- An employer may not advertise employment openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying. Ads that state “no felons,” “no criminal background,” or otherwise convey similar messages are prohibited.
- An employer may not implement any policy or practice that automatically or categorically excludes individuals with a criminal record from consideration prior to an initial determination that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Prohibited policies and practices include rejecting an applicant for failure to disclose a criminal record prior to initially determining the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.
It’s important to note that the law does not apply to employers hiring workers with unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults, employers required by federal or state law to ask about criminal records, law enforcement or criminal justice agencies, volunteers, or certain organizations self-regulated.
Washington has become the eleventh state to enact a statewide “Ban the Box” for both public and private employers, with one ultimate goal: a better opportunity for applicants with criminal records to present their true qualifications for a position, before any criminal record is available to an employer looking to fill the position applied for.
Nationwide, 31 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted “Ban the Box” laws regulating either public or private employers. Please contact Alliance 2020 if you have any questions; we’re here to provide clarification on any facets of this new law!