Philadelphia Employers are Banned from Using the Box

Earlier this month, an enhanced “ban the box” ordinance became law in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formally known as the “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards” ordinance, this law prohibits discrimination based on a job applicant’s criminal history. The law applies to all Philadelphia private employers, regardless of size, and to all city agencies. The law resembles a similar law enacted in New York City.

Important provisions of the law include the following: 

  • Employers in Philadelphia cannot ask about a job applicant’s criminal history until after the applicant is given a conditional offer of employment.
  • Employers cannot withdraw a conditional offer of employment due to criminal history unless the job applicant’s criminal record bears a relationship to the job that the employer can reasonable conclude that the person would present an unacceptable risk to the business. There are six factors that go into the determination if the person presents a risk to the business.
  • Employers must disregard a criminal conviction occurring more than 7 years before the job application.
  • Employers cannot include questions about criminal history on the job application.
  • Employers must display a workplace poster identifying the new law.

Specific provisions on how to notify an applicant that a conditional job offer will be rescinded are set forth in the rules.

According to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the following are unlawful acts:

  • Asking about criminal records on a job application.
  • Asking about criminal records during any job interview. 
  • Asking about criminal records at any time before making a conditional offer of employment.
  • Making any adverse personnel action against an employee for arrests that did not lead to conviction.
  • Rejecting an applicant without weighing the type of offense, when it occurred and the connection to the job. 
  • Rejecting an applicant without conducting an individualized assessment. 
  • Failing to provide the applicant with notice of the rejection, and a copy of the criminal background report. 
  • Failing to provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond to the background report.

All employers in Philadelphia should review their background check procedures to make sure they are in compliance with the new law. For information on the specifics of the rule, click here.

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