Commerce and Labor chair sponsors ‘ban the box’ bill, pushes for passage

“Ban the Box” legislation introduced today in the Senate has Sen. Michael Baumgartner as the primary sponsor, a major endorsement that could position the bill for passage in both chambers. The growing movement to bar businesses and organizations from requiring arrest history to even consider job candidates is expected to receive broad, bi-partisan support from across the state.

“This is about giving people a fair shot at employment,” said Baumgartner, R-Spokane, chair of the Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee, which will need to approve the bill to advance. “Employers can still decide not to hire someone with an arrest history, but Ban the Box gives those trying to get their life back on track a fair chance to get a foot in the door and present their qualifications.”

The bill would stop employers from requiring job candidates to disclose arrest history in the initial job application, not the remaining hiring process. Any arrest history could then be considered alongside the person’s qualifications rather than exclude them from the hiring process entirely. Under Baumgartner’s version of the bill, businesses that send employees for work in a residential setting or work with minors are exempt from the requirement.

Over 150 cities and counties and 24 states have adopted some form of the “Ban the Box” legislation according to the National Employment Law Project. Seattle already passed similar rules and Spokane has also implemented the policy for city jobs while encouraging businesses to follow suit.

“This legislation will help make our economy stronger and our communities safer,” said Baumgartner. “Finding a job is the best way to help keep people who have paid their debt to society from returning to a life of crime.”

As chair of the Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee, Baumgartner’s sponsorship will likely help provide the needed support to move the legislation through the Senate.