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Washington State Employment Laws

The state of Washington has restrictions on what can be reported in a background screening report beyond what the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates.

RestrictionExplanation
Applicant/subject can be required to pay for a background check or a portion thereofLandlord may require applicant to pay for background screening if special notice is provided and the charge is limited to the lesser of actual costs or what a CRA would charge to conduct the same searches.
Ban the Box: Use of criminal record only after an applicant meets minimum employment qualificationsEFFECTIVE June 7, 2018, WA employers may not inquire about an applicant's criminal record until the employer has determined that the applicant is considered otherwise qualified (meets the basic criteria for the position as set out in the advertisement or job description without consideration of a criminal record) for the position. This means an employer may not include any question on an employment application, inquire either orally or in writing, receive information through a criminal history background, check, or otherwise obtain information about an applicant's criminal record until the determination is made. Only then can the employer inquiry or obtain information about a criminal record.

Notable Exceptions: The law does not apply to 1. employers required to screen for criminal convictions per local, state, or federal laws or regs. Such as law enforcement or financial institutions, 2. employers hiring a person who will or may have unsupervised access to children under the age of eighteen or to vulnerable adult as per 74.34 or 9.96A.060, 3. employers seeking a nonemployee volunteer: or 4. Any entity required to comply with the rules or regulations of a self-regulatory organization per the securities and exchange act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(26).
Ban the Box: SeattleAs of Nov. 1, 2013, a criminal background check ordinance on private employers went into effect for the city of Seattle. Employers may inquire about and consider criminal history information only after conducting an initial screen of the applicant. See the Municipal Resource Tab for full explanation.
Discrimination in Pay Based in GenderEFFECTIVE June 7, 2018, employers are prohibited in discrimination in pay based upon gender: male or female. This law does not contain any provision that prevents an employer from asking about existing on past pay of an applicant. However, the law prohibits consideration of the individual’s previous wage or salary as a legitimate reason to pay someone less than what is considered an “equal wage” with that employer. The law assumes that this information is used to pay someone less.
Key Municipal Tenant Screening Restriction: SeattleSeattle recently (Oct 2017, signed by Mayor) passed an ordinance that affects tenant screening. The new law mandates that landlords cannot screen a prospective tenant based on arrests or convictions. They cannot consider arrests that did not lead to a conviction. The law does not apply to adult sex offenders.
Must Provide NoticeLandlord must provide notice before obtaining a background screen: the notice must include the types of information to be researched, the criteria that may result in denial and name and contact information for any CRA used to obtain information. Also, landlord must supply special adverse action notice.
Use of arrest record with no convictionThe use of arrest records for employment is considered an unfair employment practice by the Human Rights Commission. However, arrests for pending charges seem to be appropriate to review. ALSO: See Resource tabs about Seattle's "Ban the Box" law effective November 1, 2013.
Use of Credit ReportAn employer may not request a credit report in regard to an applicant or employee unless: (1) the employer discloses the job-related reason(s) for requesting the credit report to the individual in writing or: (2) the obtaining of a credit report on the consumer is required by law.
Use of Social Media Password InformationAn employer is restricted from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to disclose login information for the employee's or applicants' personal social networking account. The employer may not request, require, or cause an employee or applicant to alter the settings on such a personal social networking account that affect a third party's ability to view the contents of the account.

See the statute here for more information.

Additional Resources

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