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Human Resources

Fair Pre-Employment Inquiries

Washington State Guideline for Development of Fair Pre-Employment Inquiries

WAC 162-12-130 - Discriminatory inquiries are prohibited. Any pre-employment inquiry or the keeping of any record of protected status before employment for a discriminatory purpose is prohibited and may be evidence of an unfair practice when connected to the applicant's protected status unless the particular quality inquired about is a bona fide occupational qualification.

This WAC applies to all phases of the recruitment and screening process. Any questions which give the appearance of taking a candidate's race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship status, age, sex, marital status, or any sensory, mental or physical condition into consideration for discriminatory purposes must be avoided. Nothing in these rules prevents employers from asking for the information they need in order to determine which candidates can do the best job. Their purpose is simply to prevent characteristics which should have nothing to do with employment from influencing the selection process. Individuals participating in the selection process should review the following chart, developed by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, prior to screening application materials, contacting references (either verbally or in writing) and interviewing.

The chart is to be used as a guide; examples are not exhaustive.

SubjectFair Pre-Employment InquiriesUnfair Pre-Employment Inquiries
AgeInquiries as to birth date and proof of true age are permitted by RCW 49.44.090.Any inquiry not in compliance with RCW 49.44.090 which implies a preference for persons under the age of 40 years.
For age discrimination, RCW 49.44.090 must be read in conjunction with RCW 49.60.180 and 49.60.200. RCW 49.44.090 limits age discrimination coverage to persons 40 years of age and older, and makes other limitations and exceptions to the age discrimination law.
 
Arrests (See alsoConvictions)Because statistical studies regarding arrests have shown a disparate impact on some racial and ethnic minorities, and an arrest by itself is not a reliable indication of criminal behavior, inquiries concerning arrests must include whether charges are still pending, have been dismissed, or led to conviction of a crime involving behavior which would adversely affect job performance, and the arrest occurred within the last ten years. Exempt from this rule are law enforcement agencies and state agencies, school districts, businesses and other organizations that have a direct responsibility for the supervision, care, or treatment of children, mentally ill persons, developmentally disabled persons or other vulnerable adults.Any inquiry which does not meet the requirement for fair preemployment inquiries.
 
CitizenshipWhether applicant is prevented from lawfully becoming employed in this country because of visa or immigration status. Whether applicant can provide proof of a legal right to work in the United States after hire.Whether applicant is citizen. Requirements before hiring that applicant present birth certificate, naturalization or baptismal record. Any inquiry into citizenship which would tend to divulge applicant's lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, or birthplace.
 
Convictions(See alsoArrests)Statistical studies on convictions and imprisonment have shown a disparate impact on some racial and ethnic minority groups. Inquiries concerning convictions (or imprisonment) will be considered to be justified by business necessity if the crimes inquired about relate reasonably to the job duties and if such convictions (or release from prison) occurred within the last ten years. Law enforcement agencies, state agencies, school districts, businesses and other organizations that have a direct responsibility for the supervision, care, or treatment of children, mentally ill persons, developmentally disabled persons, or other vulnerable adults are exempt from this rule.Inquiries concerning convictions and imprisonment which either do not relate reasonably to job duties or did not occur within the last ten years will not be considered justified by business necessity.
 
FamilyWhether applicant can meet specified work schedules or has activities, commitments or responsibilities that may prevent him or her from meeting work attendance requirements.Specific inquiries concerning spouse, spouse's employment or salary, children, child care arrangements, or dependents.
 
DisabilityWhether applicant is able to perform the essential functions of the job for which the applicant is applying, with or without reasonable accommodation. Inquiries as to how the applicant could demonstrate or describe the performance of these specific job functions with or without reasonable accommodation. NOTE: Employers are encouraged to include a statement on the application form apprising applicants that if they require accommodation to complete the application, testing or interview process, to please contact the employment office, personnel or human resources department or other office as may be able to assist them.Inquiries about the nature, severity or extent of a disability or whether the applicant requires reasonable accommodation. Whether applicant has applied for or received worker's compensation. Also any inquiry that is not job related or consistent with business necessity.
Height and WeightBeing of a certain height or weight will not be considered to be a job requirement unless the employer can show that all or substantially all employees who fail to meet the requirement would be unable to perform the job in question with reasonable safety and efficiency.Any inquiry which is not based on actual job requirements and not consistent with business necessity.
Marital Status(see also Name and Family)None.( ) Mr. ( ) Mrs. ( ) Ms., whether the applicant is married, single, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed, etc.
MilitaryInquiries concerning education, training, or work experience in the armed forces of the United States.Type or condition of military discharge. Applicant's experience in other than U.S. armed forces. Requests for discharge papers.
NameWhether applicant has worked for this company or another employer under a different name and, if so, what name. Name under which applicant is known to references if different from present name.Inquiry into original name where it has been changed by court order or marriage. Inquiries about a name which would divulge marital status, lineage, ancestry, national origin or descent.
National OriginInquiries into applicant's ability to read, write and speak foreign languages, when such inquiries are based on job requirements.Inquiries into applicant's lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, birthplace, or mother tongue. National origin of applicant's spouse or parents.
OrganizationsInquiry into organization memberships, excluding any organization the name or character of which indicates the race, color, creed, sex, marital status, religion, or national origin or ancestry of its members.Requirement that applicant list all organizations, clubs, societies, and lodges to which he or she belongs.
PhotographsMay be requested after hiring for identification purposes.Request that applicant submit a photograph, mandatorily or optionally, at any time before hiring.
PregnancyInquiries as to a duration of stay on job or anticipated absences which are made to males and females alike.All questions as to pregnancy, and medical history concerning pregnancy and related matters.
Race or ColorNone.Any inquiry concerning care or color of skin, hair, eyes, etc.
RelativesNames of applicant's relatives already employed by this company or by any competitor.Any other inquiry regarding marital status, identify of one's spouse, or spouse's occupation are considered unfair practices.
While the law does not directly prohibit company policies governing the employment of relatives, any policy which has the effect of disadvantaging minorities, women, married couples, or other protected classes, would be a violation of the law unless it is shown to serve a necessary business purpose.
 
Religion or CreedNone.Inquiries concerning applicant's religious preference, denomination, religious affiliations, church, parish, pastor, or religious holidays observed.
 
ResidenceInquiries about addresses to the extent needed to facilitate contacting the applicant.Names or relationship of persons with whom applicant resides. Whether applicant owns or rents home.
 
SexNone.Any inquiry concerning gender is prohibited.