With a stroke of a pen, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has completed a ban-the-box trifecta—following Oregon (2016) and California (January 2018) and making it unlawful to inquire about criminal history during the hiring process. Exceptions to the law include jobs in law enforcement, state agencies, schools and other businesses that supervise children, persons with disabilities and vulnerable adults.
The new legislation prohibits employers from asking about arrests and convictions until after an employer determines the candidate is “otherwise qualified” for the position. An applicant is considered “otherwise qualified” when, without consideration of a criminal record, the candidate meets the basic criteria for the position as stated in the job description. Organizations are prohibited from advertising any job openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying.
The Fair Chance Act is effective June 6, 2018. In advance of this date, employers in Washington state should assess whether they are covered by the new law and whether their employment applications and other screening policies will need to be updated.