Many companies in Seattle had phrases in their job postings that said things like, “We are a felon-free and drug-free company.” New legislation passed by the city council will make messages like that illegal. Companies will no longer be allowed to make people with a criminal record unable to apply for their job openings.
The reason why the city council is doing this is to help people get back into the job market after being arrested or convicted of a crime. The new legislation created requirements for when employers can ask about an applicant’s criminal record and what they can do about it. The legislation was proposed by Councilman Bruce Harrell. He said this about the new law;
“The purpose of the legislation is to reduce recidivism by helping ex-cons find a way to survive outside prison walls without resorting to the same crimes that got them locked up in the first place.”
There are two elements to the legislation. Employers are no longer allowed to ask an applicant about their criminal history on initial application forms. The second element is that they have to give applicants who they are going to turn down due to prior convictions two days to explain their records.
Many workers’ and minority advocates had been urging council members to “ban the box”. They believe that by checking the box that asks if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime cripples an applicant’s chances before their resumé is even reviewed. The legislation also includes a requirement that businesses must be able to point to “a legitimate business reason” for not hiring a qualified employee who happened to have a criminal record.