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Seattle Latest City to “Ban the Box” for Private Employers

On June 20, 2013, the Mayor of Seattle signed an ordinance to “ban the box” and otherwise restrict the use of arrest and conviction records in the hiring and personnel decisions of most private employers and of the City itself. Under the new Seattle ordinance, employers may not advertise, publicize or implement any policy or practice automatically or categorically excluding all individuals with any arrest or conviction record from any employment position to be performed in at least substantial part (at least 50% of the time) within the City of Seattle. Notwithstanding this prohibition, an employer may perform a criminal background check or require a job applicant to provide criminal history information after the employer has completed the initial screening of applications or resumes to eliminate unqualified applicants, subject to limitations. In addition, employers in Seattle and across the country should take note of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 2012 Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions, to ensure that they are conducting background checks in compliance with the Fair Credit Recording Act (and its state equivalents) and any federal, state or local laws limiting the use of criminal records in hiring and personnel decisions.

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