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What the state’s new Fair Chance law means for job applicants

OLYMPIA (May 21, 2019) — In 2018, the Legislature passed the Washington Fair Chance Act to protect job applicants with a criminal record so they can fairly compete for job opportunities for which they are otherwise qualified. This legislation was supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and a broad coalition of business, labor, and community groups.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has prepared a one-page flier to inform employers and workers about their rights and responsibilities under this new law. Download in English (PDF/158kb) and Español (PDF/162kb).

Job Advertisements
Covered employers may not advertise job openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying. Ads that state “no felons,” “no criminal backgrounds,” or otherwise communicate similar messages are prohibited.

Job Applications
Covered employers may not include any question on a job application that seeks information about an applicant’s criminal record.

Hiring Process
Covered employers may not do any of the following until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position:

  1. Inquire verbally or in writing about an applicant’s criminal record;
  2. Receive information through a criminal history background check;
  3. Otherwise obtain information about an applicant’s criminal record;
  4. Implement policies or practices that automatically or categorically exclude job applicants with a criminal record, including rejecting applicants for failure to disclose a criminal record.

Covered Employers
Covered employers include public agencies, private individuals, businesses and corporations, contractors, temporary staffing agencies, training and apprenticeship programs, and job placement, referral, and employment agencies. The law applies to all employers, regardless of the number of workers they employ.

This law does not apply to employers hiring someone who will or may have unsupervised access to children, vulnerable adults, or vulnerable persons; Washington law enforcement or criminal justice agencies; financial institutions, national or registered securities entities, or other employers who are permitted or required by law to ask about and consider information about an applicant’s criminal record for employment purposes; or employers seeking non-employee volunteers.

Complaint Process
The Civil Rights Division accepts complaints that a covered employer has used criminal record information to exclude an applicant from a job opportunity before determining whether the applicant is otherwise qualified for the job. You may contact us at or by leaving a message on our toll-free line at (833) 662-9934. You may also submit a complaint using our online form and a staff member will follow up with you.  Anyone may file a complaint about an unlawful advertisement or hiring practice, not just job applicants who have been impacted by such actions.

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