SEATTLE — At a heated hearing at City Hall, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would prevent businesses from rejecting job applicants just because they have a history of criminal behavior.
Supporters say it will give people who have done their time a second chance.
“When employment rates increase, crime reduces,” said City Councilman Bruce Harrell, sponsor of the legislation. “This is a means to reduce recidivism and make our street safer.”
Harrell wants to give people a chance to “re-enter society.”
But there is opposition to the new bill from the business community.
“There’s no empirical evidence that shows that this kind of project works,” said Bill Hinkle, of the Rental Housing Association. “The city has been doing it for a long time (in public employment). Have we seen recidivism go down at all through their program? No.”
Here’s an often-cited example of what would and what wouldn’t be allowed under this new bill (e.g. “legitimate reason”). An employer could deny someone with a DUI record employment if that person was being considered for a driving job – delivering pizzas, for instance. But they couldn’t be denied for, say, a desk job.
Wednesday’s meeting was filled almost exclusively with supporters of the new law.
If the full City Council approves the bill, the penalty would be a warning for the first violation, up to $750 for a second violation, and up to $1,000 for violations after that.