Since 2009, the City of Seattle has been observing what it refers to as a "Ban the Box" legal provision, which forbids questions about criminal history of city government job applicants. Effective Nov. 1, the ordinance has been extended to all private employers within the city as well.

"Ban the Box" derives its name from the familiar checkbox on employment applications asking applicants to indicate if they've ever been convicted of a crime. The Seattle law mandates that employers seeking criminal background histories of applicants must demonstrate a "legitimate business reason" for doing so.

The ordinance does, however, provide limited exemptions for law enforcement jobs, as well as positions with unsupervised access to children, individuals with developmental disabilities or vulnerable adults.

Some 60 cities nationwide have similar measures for government entities, but Seattle is only the third city to extend the law to private employers. On Jan. 1, 2014, Buffalo, N.Y., will become the fourth city banning the practice by private businesses.

In Seattle, a first infraction of the law earns a warning notice, the second a penalty of up to $750, and the third and beyond a penalty of up to $1,000 each.