Morning Fizz

It's Really About Fairness

By Morning Fizz September 20, 2012

1. Despite the fact that the group's executive board had recommended a sole endorsement for 36th District state house candidate Gael Tarleton, a Seattle Port Commissioner, the 36th District Democrats ended up giving a dual endorsement to Tarleton and her opponent, Progressive Majority leader Noel Frame at their meeting last night. Yesterday, Frame announcedthat she had received the endorsements of three of her former Democratic primary opponents.

2. Yesterday afternoon, the city council's public safety committee discussed legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring job applicants to disclose whether they have been convicted of a felony on job applications. (The bill would still allow employers to ask applicants whether they were felons after offering them a job, but wouldn't allow them to preemptively exclude candidates from consideration for prior criminal history).

The legislation would allow companies to exclude applicants from consideration whose felonies were directly related to the job they were applying for---for example, if a person had been convicted of a crime involving children, he or she wouldn't be allowed to work at a child-care facility.

Civil-liberties advocates and former felons testified in favor of the legislation, which, according to former felon John Page, would have made it possible for him to get a job with a Seattle energy company that rejected him not because of a lack of qualifications, but because he had a felony conviction several years ago. Business representatives, arguing against the legislation, said it might allow people who'd been convicted of domestic violence, for example, to work at companies made up predominantly of women.

Julie Nelson, head of the city's Office for Civil Rights, pointed out that the legislation includes strict requirements for the rare cases in which a company consists mostly of a protected class like women. And she noted that employers are still allowed to consider a former felon's criminal record when deciding whether to hire them---the only thing the legislation would ban is pre-screening potential employees before even considering their qualifications.

"The legislation itself is really about fairness---it’s just basically [saying] no prescreening," council member Nick Licata said. "An employer is not forced to hire someone, but they cannot prejudge someone" based on their criminal history.

The council will take up Harrell's legislation again in October or November.

3. Solid Ground, the low-income advocacy group, confirms that it will run two circulator buses (one seating 19 people, the other 23) between downtown Seattle and the First Hill medical area after the downtown Ride-Free Area ends September 29. The buses will serve Harborview, the Downtown Emergency Service Center, King County Public Health, and other social-service agencies between 7am and 4pm Monday through Friday, running every 25 to 30 minutes.
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