Seattle poised to make it easier for felons to get jobs

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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.

cityhallA business would only be able to deny a job to someone convicted of a crime if there is a “legitimate reason.”

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.

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  • Susan

    I am someone who is in recovery and can tell you that although I worked hard to obtain my college degree once I had a record of I could not obtain employment for any decent salary. Even though I had the skills and when I was not in my addiction excelled in my field and Managers wanted to hire me I was turned down due my record. In the past it was only Felonies that barred people from opportunities but today it is any glitch on someone's record. Other states have laws to expunge lower level charges after a period of time but not Washington. I relapsed into my addition multiple times due to despair over my situation and hopelessness to ever return to society as a productive member. All people need to have hope. In the past before background checks the same people that are being denied now were hired without the Employer knowing and many people turned their lives around once they were in recovery. None of us can say we never made a mistake. Most people do not realize that 80% off all persons in incarceration today are there due to a non-violent drug or alcohol related charge something they did while under the influence. For years I did not believe alcoholism and addiction were a disease today there is much empirical evidence to show persons with physiological make ups usually due to family history process alcohol completely different than someone who is non-addicted thus the experience and compulsion that arises does not arise in someone who does not have an addictive physiological make up. However, addiction is the only disease I know of that people abhor which I understand, but unless we as a society allow people to pay for their crimes and be able to take care of themselves via employment we will all suffer. Tax payers will pay more, addicts and alcoholics will lose hope and either rely on the government to pay their rent or tax paying citizens will. We all deserve the chance to change.

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