Ban the Box Would Burden Small Businesses in Washington

Date: March 31, 2015

'People trust us with their security'

UPDATE: NFIB/Washington helped defeat both “ban the box” bills earlier in the Legislative session. House Bill 1701 was approved by the House Labor Committee, but was not brought to a vote of the full House before the March 11 deadline. Its Senate companion, SB 5608, received a public hearing in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, but died in committee without a vote.

Larry Nicholas, owner of Accurate Lock and Security in Bellingham, Washington, is understandably concerned about maintaining the safety of his customers’ personal belongings and the reputation of his business.

“People trust us with their security,” Nicholas says. “There’s no way we could expose our customers to someone who’s been convicted of a felony.”

That’s why Nicholas, who is in the process of hiring two new employees, is worried about bills introduced in Washington that would ban employers from asking about applicants’ criminal background early in the hiring process.

The “ban-the-box” bills would be a burden on employers, agrees NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor.

“The bills would add time and cost to the hiring process and are an open invitation for litigation against small employers whose only crime is trying to do business in the state of Washington,” Connor says.

The possibility of discrimination lawsuits because of the bill is particularly troubling.

“How would a small employer defend against lawsuits alleging discrimination or that the decision to hire another applicant was not based on the criminal record?” Connor says. “The bills would foster an environment ripe for nuisance suits.”

The legislation’s vague wording—employers can’t ask about arrests or convictions “before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position”—makes the situation even worse.

“It is unclear in the bill when an employer could inquire about criminal history,” Connor says. “Is it during an interview, or at the time an offer is made?”

Seattle has already passed a ban-the-box measure.

How would a ban-the-box measure affect your business? Tell us in the comments section below.

Related Content: Small Business News | Labor | Legal | Washington

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