Fair Chance Employment

Ordinance: SMC 14.17 Rules: SHRR Chapter 80

Fair Chance Employment Q & A

Seattle's Fair Chance Employment Ordinance went into effect on November 1, 2013.

The Fair Chance Employment Ordinance restricts how employers can use conviction and arrest records during the hiring process and course of employment within City limits.

Increased employment opportunities will reduce recidivism, reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system and strengthen our community.

The Law:

  • Prohibits categorical exclusions in job ads (e.g. Does not allow statements like, "Felons need not apply.").
  • Limits criminal history questions on job applications and criminal background checks until after an employer conducts an initial screening to eliminate unqualified applicants.
  • Requires employers to have a legitimate business reason to deny a job based on a conviction record.
  • Requires an opportunity for an applicant or employee to explain or correct criminal history information.
  • The law does not apply to jobs with unsupervised access to children under 16, individuals with developmental disabilities or vulnerable adults.
  • Additional responsibilities and exceptions.

Note: The Fair Chance Employment Ordinance received a name change from Job Assistance (JAO) to Fair Chance Employment (FCE) on January 16, 2016.

Additional protections for those living with criminal history

In 2018, Washington State passed the Washington Fair Chance Act, RCW Chapter 49.94, which also protects job applicants with criminal record in the hiring process. The Washington State Fair Chance Act limits use of criminal records in advertisements, applications, and the hiring process. The Washington State Office of the Attorney General's Civil Rights Division oversees the administration of this law. For more information, please visit their website by clicking here.

In 2018, the City of Seattle passed the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, SMC 14.09, which prohibits discrimination in housing against renters with arrest records, conviction records, or criminal history. The ordinance caps a decade-long effort to address discrimination against people who have served their time, are seeking to provide for themselves and their families, and yet have faced barriers to accessing safe, stable housing. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights is responsible for administering and enforcing this ordinance. For more information, please visit their website by clicking here.