In June of 2013, Seattle became the first municipality in Washington to pass a “Ban the Box” ordinance. In our Workforce Wisdom issue that month Ban the Box Article Link we provided guidance on how to comply with their ordinance. Ban the Box refers to banning the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on an employment application, and limits asking that question until after an interview or conditional job offer has been made.
In June of this year, Tacoma’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution to Ban the Box for municipal government jobs within the city. This follows a similar move by Pierce County in 2012. And the state of Oregon passed a statewide Ban the Box law this summer which will apply to all employers unless they are exempt due to legal restrictions, and takes effect January 2016. With over 100 cities and counties, and 18 states, prohibiting the conviction question, it appears to be only a matter of time until we see a Ban the Box regulation apply to all employers in Washington State.
Under the recently passed federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, there is a focus on assisting workers that have barriers to employment. One group that this puts a spotlight on is ex-offenders and their challenges, and the programs that assist them to find employment. We will no doubt see more organized efforts as a result of WIOA to assist ex-offenders in their efforts to find employment.
There’s no doubt that Ban the Box is a movement with momentum. Whether it becomes state law or federal law, it will most likely become a law we eventually must comply with. In the meantime, we have an opportunity to review our hiring processes to ensure they are in legal compliance with the EEOC’s guidelines, that they serve our business well by ensuring we have access to a large and diverse talent pool, to explore the special programs that assist ex-offenders and to rethink how some folks in this population might fit into our businesses.