The Seattle City Council's Public Safety Committee is gearing up to vote tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. on progressive legislation that would encourage employers to interview, and hopefully hire, qualified ex-convicts. The bill, which was sponsored by committee chair Bruce Harrell (and which I previewed here), would help roughly 39,000 Seattle residents with felony or other convictions on their records by postponing a criminal history check by employers until after the initial applicant screening process.
As attorney Merf Ehman of the nonprofit law firm Columbia Legal Services explains:
This gives all applicants a fair opportunity to compete for employment based on their qualifications while permitting employers to check for criminal history early in the hiring process. While the applicant has an opportunity to provide information regarding a criminal record, the employer need not hire an applicant if the employer believes that the applicant poses a potential risk of harm or if the criminal history will have a negative impact on the applicant’s ability to do the job. If a criminal history impacts how a person will perform a job or creates a safety issue, then employers can screen out these applicants.
It also gives ex-offenders the framework to report unfair hiring practices, which would be investigated through the Seattle Office of Civil Rights. Under them measure, employers found guilty could be fined up to $1,000.
The Seattle Human Rights commission loves the measure, Columbia Legal Services love the measure, and business interests are reportedly satisfied with it after months of negotiating. The only question remains is, will the council pass it?