Tappero sees government taking heavier role in private business

South Kitsap residents sometimes like to head toward Manchester for its scenic views of Seattle.

Julie Tappero, president and owner of West Sound Workforce, on Thursday told the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce that they should watch the politics of Washington’s largest city, as well.

In 2011, Seattle became just the third city in the country behind San Francisco and Washington, D.C., to mandate paid leave for employees to care for themselves or family members when ill. Tappero said the law could impact businesses ranging from those with a worldwide scope to those in Port Orchard that have employees who conduct business in that city because “the hours they work in Seattle are affected toward this.”

She said legislation to make paid sick leave a statewide law recently failed, but that does not mean it is not gaining momentum. New York City became the latest city to require it in June.

“This is a trend that will affect us at some point,” she said.

Another Seattle law that could affect those throughout the state, Tappero said, relates to restricting the use of a criminal background check for perspective employees. When someone fills out an application to work in Seattle, employers no longer can ask if that person has been convicted of a crime. Instead, a person can be offered a conditional job based a criminal background check. For example, Tappero said a bookkeeper would be justified in not hiring someone convicted of embezzlement. She said another company refusing to hire a janitor with a solid employment background based on a 20-year-old bar fight would not be a sufficient defense. Tappero said this legislation was created to prevent discrimination because there are a disproportionate amount of minorities in prison.

Local businesses have time to prepare for those developments, but Tappero said recent legislation will make other laws more impactful during the immediate future. Some of those include a policy that no longer allows businesses to require prospective or current employees to give them their passwords on social media. Tappero said there are a few exceptions, including a situation where an employee accuses a colleague of sex harassment. She said employers also “can only do a credit check if it is specific to a job.” For example, a business might not want an accountant with poor credit.

Tappero also discussed some topics that have received plenty of media attention lately. One stemmed from last year’s investigation by KOMO-TV that found contract workers drinking beer while working on the Highway 520 bridge.

“Alcohol is actually illegal in our workplace,” Tappero said.

And while voters approved I-502 last year, which legalized marijuana in our state, Tappero said “as employers we still have the right to a drug-free workplace.”

Tappero closed out the meeting by warning businesses that they need to fill out the updated Form I-9 and to E-Verify, which is an Internet-based, free program run by the federal government that compares I-9 information to data from U.S. government records. She noted federal immigration audits last year led to nearly $13 million in fines and 238 arrests of company managers.

“The more you can do to make sure your employees can work here, the better,” Tappero said.

She said businesses can expect more local and federal government intervention in the future.

“I think we’re seeing government as more of a caretaker of all of us,” Tappero said.


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