OLYMPIA – A bipartisan bill to prohibit employers from requiring disclosure of past arrests or convictions on job applications was introduced today in the state Senate.

“While the other Washington is gridlocked, it is more important than ever to find ways to make a positive and immediate difference in the lives of the people in our state,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5312. “People are suffering now. People need jobs, and employers need qualified employees. This bill gives those who have paid their debt to society a chance to get a job, support their families and rebuild their lives. This helps kids and families, and prevents recidivism. This is common-sense legislation that makes all of us better off.”

The City of Seattle enacted a similar measure, known as the Fair Chance Employment Ordinance, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2013. Dozens of cities and a number of states have passed “Ban the Box” legislation, as it is commonly known. Many employers already opt to not include the check-box, recognizing it may limit the pool of qualified applicants.

More than 70 million Americans have a criminal record, and studies show individuals who have been incarcerated are much less likely to re-offend if they have steady employment. Data also shows people of color are disproportionately affected by these hiring practices. “Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men, and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men,” according to The Sentencing Project. It has also been found that those who report a criminal record are 50 percent less likely to get a call back or job offer.

A stronger version of the bill is working its way through the House, sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo (House Bill 1298).