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This page provides an overview of laws preventing nepotism in Washinton State as they apply to local governments, including examples of policies.


Nep-o-tism: Favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as in business.  (From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition)

In the State of Washington, all local governments have the authority to establish rules and regulations governing their internal operation. Generally, it might be considered unfair to refuse to consider hiring or retaining an employee simply because of a degree of relationship with another person. Such discrimination factors are covered in RCW 49.60.180, 49.60.190, and 49.60.200, dealing with unfair labor practices. However, the Washington Administrative Code, at 162-16-250, clarifies such regulation under the term "business necessity."

A number of Washington municipalities prohibit nepotism in some degree. In order to assist other municipalities considering such a regulation, several nepotism ordinances and policies are set out below.

State Regulation

For the most part, state law does not address nepotism, except to the extent that three labor-related statutes prohibit discrimination based upon marital status. The three statutes (RCW 49.60.180, 49.60.190, and 49.60.200) are implemented by WAC 162-16-250, which covers discrimination because of a spousal relationship. The regulation allows different treatment of an employee's spouse if there is a justification under a "business necessity." Business necessity permits action, which might otherwise be determined discriminatory, as a bona fide occupational qualification exception to the general rule prohibiting discrimination.

Examples of Policies and Municipal Codes

  • Anacortes Personnel Policy 204 (2016) - sets out rules for hiring/retention of immediate family members
  • Ellensburg Personnel Policies Manual Sec. 3.6 (2015) - Based upon business necessity, includes policy for change in circumstances
  • Olympia Policy 1 (revised 2013) - City generally will not hire a relative of current employee, including parent, stepparent, adopted or foster child, daughter or son-in-law, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and domestic partners, among others, primarily based upon business necessity.
  • Snohomish County Code Sec. 3A.12.050 (revised 2001) - County to avoid practice or appearance of nepotism and employment of spouse or close relative, if business necessity exists.
  • Tacoma Municipal Code Sec. 1.24.725 - Employment of Immediate Family
  • Thurston County Personnel Rules and Policies (2012) - see Ch. 5, No. 4. No member of immediate family may be employed in same office or department as current employee or board member, but with exceptions.
  • Vancouver Employee Ethics Policy (2008) - see section 504, a one-page description of the nepotism policy with guidelines in a Q&A format
  • Woodinville Municipal Code Sec. 2.36.025 (adopted 2009) - Limits employment of an employee's immediate family, a term defined to mean "spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, brother and sister, mother and father-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, aunt and uncle, grandparents, grandchildren, or step-relatives or domestic partner-relatives in one of these relationships."

Last Modified: May 30, 2017