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Washington State Enacts Fair Chance Act

Washington State has joined a number of other jurisdictions, including the Washington cities of Seattle and Spokane, by passing a “ban-the-box” law, known as the Washington Fair Chance Act (HB 1298). The Act prohibits employers from obtaining any information about an applicant's criminal record (whether by a question on an application for employment, inquiring orally or in writing, receiving information through a criminal history background check, or otherwise) until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. It makes it unlawful for employers to advertise employment openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records from applying, or to implement a policy or practice that automatically or categorically excludes individuals with a criminal record from consideration prior to an initial determination that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Once the employer has initially determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified, the law does not restrict the employer from inquiring into or obtain information about a criminal record, although it also does not limit any existing restrictions that apply.

Washington State Legislature Responds to the #MeToo Movement

Washington has adopted four new laws addressing workplace harassment and discrimination. Three prohibit limitations on an employee’s disclosure or public pursuit of discrimination or harassment claims, while the fourth requires the Washington State Human Rights Commission to develop model sexual harassment policies and “best practices” for employers. While these laws were motivated primarily by the #MeToo movement, one of them broadly attacks agreements for the private resolution of discrimination claims generally. The laws take effect on June 7, 2018.1

New Washington State Law Restricts Permissible Discovery of Plaintiff's Medical Records in Discrimination Lawsuits

A new Washington law (SB 6027) impacts the scope of discovery of a plaintiff’s medical records in litigation brought under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”). The law will become effective on June 7, 2018.

Washington State Amends Domestic Violence Leave Law

Effective June 7, 2018, Washington State amended its domestic violence leave law to require employers to provide reasonable safety accommodations to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and to incorporate additional prohibitions on discriminating or retaliating against actual or perceived victims of domestic violence.1

New Pay Equity Law in Washington State

Washington State has joined the ranks of jurisdictions that have adopted expanded equal pay legislation.1 The Equal Pay Opportunity Act (EPOA) was signed into law on March 21, 2018, and will take effect on June 7, 2018.2 The EPOA significantly expands Washington’s existing gender pay law for the first time since its enactment in 1943.3

Washington State Enacts New Laws Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Responding to the national “#MeToo” movement, Washington has enacted four new workplace laws intended primarily to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

Washington's Pay Equity Update Prohibits Wage Secrecy Policies, Ensures Equity in Advancement Opportunities

On March 21, 2018, Governor Jay Inslee signed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (EPOA) into law, updating Washington’s 1943 Equal Pay Act. The 1943 Equal Pay Act created a private right of action for women who are paid less than similarly employed men because of their sex. This is the fourth year in a row the Washington legislature has considered updates to the 1943 act, which has not been modified since it was originally passed. This year, however, the EPOA gained traction and passed the Washington State House of Representatives and the Washington State Senate.

#MeToo Comes to Washington State

In response to the #MeToo movement, lawmakers in several states are introducing bills aimed at curbing workplace sexual harassment and addressing how complaints and resolutions are handled by employers. Washington is no exception, and the Washington state Legislature has passed three bills focused on new laws relating to sexual harassment. Each bill is briefly summarized below.

Washington Expands Employment Discrimination Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Job applicants and employees in Washington who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking will have new protections against employment discrimination under a law that will go into effect on June 7, 2018.

Washington State “Bans the Box”

Washington has joined a growing list of states and cities to restrict criminal history inquiries in the hiring process with adoption of the Washington Fair Chance Act (2SHB 1298), signed into law on March 13, 2018. Beginning June 7, 2018, state law will prohibit public and private employers from asking about arrests or convictions until after an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position.