On November 27, the City Council for Spokane, Washington made that city the newest locality to approve a “ban the box” ordinance, which would prohibit employers from requesting criminal or arrest records to make decisions on employment until after an in-person interview.  The vote passed 5-2.  The mayor of Spokane has until December 14, 2017 to veto or sign the ordinance.

The ordinance only applies to those applying for positions within the Spokane city limits.  It is broad enough to cover all types of work, including “temporary or seasonal work, contracted work, contingent work and work through the services of a temporary or other employment agency; or any form of vocational or educational training, whether offered with or without pay.”  Notably, the ordinance has a carve-out exception aimed at local school employees that allows businesses hiring employees who will work with unsupervised children to continue to ask about criminal histories. There is also a Washington state law that requires school employees to complete a background check.

If passed, Spokane employers will have until July 2018 to comply with the new ordinance, although the city will not enforce it until 2019.  A violation of the ordinance is a class 1 civil infraction, with a fine of $261. The City may double the infraction penalty for any subsequent violations.

Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor related legislative developments concerning employment background screening and employee hiring.