Hiring in Washington State: Three Critical Things to Know

If you are a small business owner, you know hiring employees is an important piece of the puzzle. But did you know that laws exist governing the hiring process that make it illegal to ask certain questions to potential candidates? It’s important to educate yourself about these laws to be sure you are complying, keeping both you and your potential candidates protected. Below are some relevant laws in Washington state.

#1 – Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants with criminal backgrounds. This means you are not allowed to include any questions on your application (nor can you inquire verbally) about criminal history until after you have determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. The point of this is to give the opportunity for the applicant to prove they are qualified before ruling them out as a candidate solely based on their criminal background. You can read this law in detail here. (Note that this links to a .pdf and your browser may require that you verify it as a trustworthy source)

#2 – Recently, Governor Jay Inslee signed the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. This new law prohibits employers from seeking applicant salary history from current or former employers. Also, employers are required to set the minimum pay scale for an open position prior to posting the position. Statistics show a woman gets paid less than a man to perform the same job, and this law is aimed at removing this discrepancy.  You can read more about this law here.

#3 – Employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. In other words, don’t ask about the applicant’s 23andme results or anything remotely close to that in an interview! Here is a good article that gives examples of illegal questions and offers tips to handle these subjects if brought up by the interviewer. These discrimination laws are enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can read more about these laws in detail here.

Whether you are a small business owner or an individual looking for a job, we recommend taking some time to educate yourself on these laws. While these laws can make the hiring process more complex, we at Joy Accounting are excited to base in a state that is putting guardrails in place to protect individuals from unfair hiring practices. We look forward to the day that discrimination in hiring practices can be done away with so that every decision is truly based on merit, and not on societal bias.   

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