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Washington State Bans the Box

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The Basics

Location: Washington State
Legislation: HB1298
Type: Ban the Box
Effective: June 6th, 2018

Washington State has joined a growing number of jurisdictions that have passed so‐called “ban‐the‐box” laws. Both laws limit when employers can inquire into and consider the criminal history of a job applicant and will go into effect in June 2018.

Key Takeaways

  • May not exclude people with criminal records in advertisements.
  • Prohibits inquiries into an applicant’s criminal record until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified (as defined).
  • Penalties may be enforced up to $1,000 per violation.

Who does this effect?

The law applies to employers including public agencies, private individuals, businesses and corporations, contractors, training and apprenticeship programs, and temporary staffing, job placement, referral, and employment agencies.

What is prohibited in the law?

Employers may not:

  • Advertise employment openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying;
  • Obtain information about an applicant’s criminal record until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position, meaning the applicant meets the basic criteria for the position as set out in the advertisement or job description without consideration of a criminal record; or
  • Implement any policy or practice that excludes individuals with a criminal record, including failure to disclose such record, from consideration prior to an initial determination that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.

Are there any exceptions?

The law does not apply to:

  • Employers hiring a person who will or may have unsupervised access to children, or a vulnerable adult or person (as defined);
  • Any employer, including a financial institution, who is expressly permitted or required under any federal or state law to inquire into, consider, or rely on information about an applicant’s or employee’s criminal record for employment purposes;
  • Employment by a general or limited authority Washington law enforcement agency, or a criminal justice agency (as defined); ü An employer seeking a nonemployee volunteer; or
  • Any entity required to comply with the rules or regulations of a self‐regulatory organization (as defined).

What are the repercussions for a violation of the law?

The Washington Attorney General’s office will utilize a stepped enforcement approach using education, warnings, and legal, including administrative, action. Penalties may be enforced up to $1,000 per violation.

How does the state law interact with local government laws?

The state law does not interfere with local government laws that provide additional protections for such applicants or employees in the future. Local government laws that provide lesser protections to job applicants with criminal records than the state law conflict and may not be enforced. The state law also does not discourage or prohibit employers from adopting employment policies that are more protective of employees and job applicants than the state’s requirements.

Contact Accurate Background

For more information regarding recent legislative changes in other states and jurisdictions, visit our Legislative Updates page.

*Please note: Accurate prepared these materials for informational purposes only. These materials are not intended to be comprehensive, and are not a substitute for, and should not be construed as, legal advice. Accurate does not warrant any statements in these materials. Employers should direct questions involving their organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply, to their own legal counsel.