New law bans Washington employers from asking about criminal history

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bill that would "Ban the Box" on a job application that asks about criminal history is now law.

Governor Jay Inslee signed the Washington Fair Chance Act into law on Tuesday.

It prohibits employers from asking about arrests and convictions until after the employer determines if the applicate is otherwise qualified for the job. Exceptions would include jobs in law enforcement, state agencies, schools and other businesses that supervise children, persons with disabilities and vulnerable adults.

According to the Washington State Patrol, more than a million people in Washington state have a criminal record.

Since 2015, advocates have urged the Washington state Legislature to “Ban the Box,” a term coined by civil rights groups and advocates.

Nationwide, 11 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted the concept, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Those states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Seattle passed an ordinance in 2013 to limit criminal history inquiries and background checks until candidates have been evaluated on qualifications.