Seattle Getting Closer to Passing Background Check-Restricting Legislation

Back in September 2012, Seattle proposed legislation, now known as Council Bill No. 117583, that would restrict use of criminal background checks in employment. Still a draft ordinance at the time, the bill proposed businesses delay criminal background checks until a conditional offer of employment is made. The bill once in law, additionally, would prevent firing or refusal of employment solely on an arrest record, pending charges, or prior convictions, unless a clear correlation between the crime and job duties is present.

For those unaware, Seattle’s proposed changes, while are not yet in effect, reflect the EEOC’s recommendations proposed in April 2012. These suggestions ultimately help employers avoid discrimination-related lawsuits.

Other cities and states have proposed and passed such legislation before, and Seattle’s measure is, in fact, based on a successful law already tested in Hawaii.

Seattle Councilmember Bruce Harrell further emphasized the bill assists citizens obtain more gainful employment. Blanket exclusions make finding employment for former criminals difficult and ultimately lead to an increase in crime. Harrell said at the time: “It gives people hope if they can just get an interview.”

Not everyone feels so positively about this proposal, however. Earlier in February, writer Erin Shannon published a piece in the Seattle Times, stating that this measure continues the city’s history of bad business policies. Additionally citing the city’s mandatory paid sick leave policy, Shannon explained Council Bill No. 117583 puts employers in a bad position, claiming that, by reducing or delaying background checks, they open themselves up to more negligent hiring lawsuits. The measure further reduces an employer’s full decision making in the hiring process.

While such legislation, if eventually applied in a national level, could change how background checks are used in employment, who do you agree with? Will Council Bill No. 117583 help ultimately reduce crimes or will businesses need to be more wary of lawsuits?

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