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Council Unanimously Votes to “Ban the Box”

Council Unanimously Votes to “Ban the Box”
June 30, 2015

Monica Ghosh, Office of Council Member Victoria Woodards, (253) 591-5164

Tacoma City Council Unanimously Votes to “Ban the Box”
on Applications for Municipal Government Jobs With the City of Tacoma

Today, the Tacoma City Council voted 9-0 to pass Resolution 39228, which supports removing the question “Have you been convicted of a felony within the last 10 years?” on applications for municipal government jobs with the City of Tacoma.  They took this action in support of the national movement to “Ban the Box”, which refers to the check box on applications asking whether applicants have criminal records. 

“As a longtime advocate for marginalized communities, I know firsthand how obstacles and barriers to employment can change the course of people’s lives for the worse,” said Council Member Victoria Woodards, who introduced the legislation.  “As we continue to move Tacoma forward and realize our vision for the future, ensuring all our residents have economic opportunities is paramount to our city’s success.  I am proud of the City of Tacoma for doing its part to conduct its hiring practices in a fairer and more equitable way.” 

State Senator Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), who represents Tacoma in the 27th Legislative District, has been a long time champion for these issues and said, “I am pleased that the City Council supported the removal of this significant barrier to employment with the City of Tacoma. People who have committed a crime, and who have successfully paid their ‘debt to society’, have been denied employment despite their repatriation to society and despite the fact that they are otherwise qualified for the job.  By ‘removing’ or ‘banning’ the box on the application form, the City of Tacoma creates a level playing field for all candidates for positions, offering jobs on the basis of merit.” 

Current Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines relating to criminal history recommend against blanket disqualification based on conviction, and further recommend that hiring managers consider the specific offense and its relationship to the position for which the candidate applied in determining whether the candidate is qualified for employment. The City of Tacoma’s current background check procedures reflect EEOC guidelines, including obtaining criminal history records prior to hire, and candidates will be asked to disclose any criminal history issue as part of the process after a conditional offer of employment is made pending the background check. 

For Tacoma Police Department applicants, the criminal history question will continue to be asked early in the hiring process as part of the Personal History Questionnaire, and applicants must pass a background investigation and polygraph test. Procedures may also differ for certain positions in the City Attorney’s Office and the Tacoma Municipal Court.

In 2012, Pierce County removed its application question regarding felony convictions. Currently, there are 17 states and over 100 cities and counties that have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with criminal records, including Seattle and Spokane.