‘Ban the Box’ Employment Laws Spread to New Cities and States

Within the past few months Washington State, Spokane, WA, and Kansas City, MO have joined the ranks of cities and states that have enacted ‘ban the box’ employment legislation. With this move, all west coast states (with some west coast cities) have ‘ban the box’ laws in place. As this legislative trend pops up in other cities and states across the U.S., keep these laws in mind as your state’s proposed bill will likely have similar terms.

What is ‘Ban the Box’ Legislation?

‘Ban the Box’ legislation aims to remove the ‘box’ on employment applications (and, in some cases, rental applications) that ask if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. In using this check box for employment purposes, pro-ban the box activists and politicians argue that the use of criminal records and credit history, before an applicant has been interviewed, discriminates against applicants who have served their time. Needless to say, legislation centered around the ‘ban the box’ movement can not only affect your employment policy, but your employment screening as well.

While this legislation does not push the ‘ban the box’ initiative into the rental housing industry, be aware that there is always a possibility that this legislative trend could spread.


Washington State Has Now ‘Banned the Box’

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the Washington “Fair Chance Act” on March 13, 2018 prohibiting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s arrests or convictions before they have received a conditional offer of employment. Before the applicant is deemed “otherwise qualified” for the position, Washington State employers will be prohibited from the following:

  • Advertise job openings in a way that excludes those with criminal records from applying
  • Include a question about the applicant’s criminal history on the application
  • Inquire orally or in writing the applicant’s criminal history
  • Receive information through a criminal history check
  • Otherwise obtain information into an applicant’s criminal record (arrests or convictions)

Washington State’s “Fair Chance Act” applies to “public agencies, private individuals, businesses and corporations, contractors, temporary staffing agencies, training and apprenticeship programs, and job placement, referral, and employment agencies.” However, the following are exempt:

  • Employers hiring someone who will or may have unsupervised access to children (under 18) or a vulnerable adult
  • Employers required or permitted by federal or state law to inquire into an employee’s criminal record
  • Certain law enforcement and criminal justice agencies
  • Employers seeking non-employee volunteers
  • Entities required to comply with the regulations of a self-regulatory organization (section 3 (1)(26) of the Securities and Exchange Act)

This law goes in effect on June 6, 2018. Be aware that this will have no impact on existing local laws (like Seattle’s 2013 ‘Ban the Box’ law) that provide additional protections, and will not prohibit local governments from enacting more restrictive laws in the future.


Spokane, Washington Also Enacts their own Employment Regulations

Keep in mind that Spokane, Washington has also enacted their own ‘Ban the Box’ ordinance. While the State’s “Fair Chance Act” covers a lot of the regulations in Spokane’s new law, we advise you to seek legal advice to legally navigate both laws. Spokane’s law is effective on June, 14, 2018 and affects all private employers.


Kansas City, MO Adopts ‘Ban the Box’ Laws

Employers with 6 or more employees within the city are prohibited from basing their hiring (or promotional) decision on an applicant’s criminal history, unless the employer can prove that the decision was based on all available information. The ordinance requires that employers may inquire into an applicant’s criminal history only after determining they are otherwise qualified for the position and has been interviewed. This law is effective on June 9, 2018.


While Washington State, Spokane, WA, and Kansas City, MO have all enacted ‘ban the box’ laws, Idaho has chosen to obtain from the legislative trend for now. Although Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise)’s S1307 did not make it into this session, be aware that she has made a statement claiming she will try to rework the bill for next session’s consideration. As ‘ban the box’ laws become more mainstream, keep a look out for it in your local and state legislature. Have your Senator’s and your Congressmen’s contact information ready, and subscribe for future legislative updates.

Has your area been affected by ‘ban the box’ laws?

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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