No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
· Judge Gideon J. Tucker
In the recently concluded session, Washington legislators enacted numerous laws that will adversely affect employers of all sizes across the State. With so many changes, it is key that employers stay up to date and understand the new challenges they will face in running their workplaces.
WASHINGTON HAS ‘BANNED THE BOX’ (2SHB 1298)
Washington is now firmly on the bandwagon to “ban the box,” barring questions about criminal convictions on initial employment applications. Employers are now prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal background until the employee is determined to be otherwise qualified for the position. The new law thus provides another area where employers have to tread carefully when rejecting applicants—an employer is much more baldly exposed to disparate impact claims arising from applicants rejected after the employer had determined they were otherwise qualified for the position. The law includes several exceptions, including for law enforcement, employers whose employees would have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults, and other employers required by law to conduct criminal background checks. The Attorney General’s Office is in charge of enforcing the law, and employers face an escalating system with increased fines for each subsequent violation.
Suggested Action: Remove any criminal background questions from job applications. While the statute bars advertising that states “no felons” or “no criminal background” or the like, nothing precludes employers from advising applicants at the time they apply that they will have to pass a criminal background check once they have been determined to be qualified for the job. Employers should monitor applicants screened out by the results of a criminal background check. If an employer detects a disparate impact as a result of that screening, the employer should ensure that its actions are consistent with business necessity. Continue Reading