What does "ban the box" or "fair chance employment" mean?

The Seattle Fair Chance Employment law, commonly referred to as the ‘ban the box’ law, prohibits Seattle employers from asking job applicants up front about their arrest or conviction history. Employers can ask later on in the application process, but must cite a legitimate business reason to deny employment based on the applicant’s arrest or conviction history. This law is meant to help people who have criminal records maintain access to job opportunities, which is proven to help prevent repeat acts of crime.

While employers are not allowed to ask applicants about criminal records on the first round of application or interviews, they may ask about criminal records as part of standard background checks after they have conducted a screen to eliminate applicants solely based on qualifications for the job. If you don’t meet the basic qualifications for the job, an employer is permitted to eliminate you from the pool of applicants.

If you have a criminal record, you have the right to explain or clarify the circumstances of your record before an employer eliminates you from a qualified pool of applicants. If you're applying for a job and see a question on the application about your criminal record, please call  Fair Work Center for help at 1-844-485-1195. You can also contact the Seattle Office of Labor Standards to file a complaint.

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