Philadelphia Expands “Ban the Box”

Philadelphia Expands “Ban the Box”

On December 15, 2015, Mayor Michael Nutter signed significant amendments to the Philadelphia Fair Criminal Records Screening Ordinance, which are scheduled to become effective on March 14, 2016.

The current law requires that employers with at least 10 employees in Philadelphia postpone any criminal record inquiries until after a “first interview” with an applicant.  As a result, many Philadelphia employers revised their employment application to remove any questions about convictions and/or arrests.

The changes to this law now require (with limited exceptions) all employers with at least one employee in Philadelphia to:

  • Delay any criminal record inquiries until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
  • Remove any criminal records question from employment applications (the ordinance specifically notes that multi-state applications may not include this question with a statement for Philadelphia applicants not to answer).
  • Not question the applicant’s willingness to submit to a background check before a conditional offer of employment has been made.
  • Ignore any criminal record in employment decisions unless it is a conviction that occurred less than seven years ago (employers may add seven years plus time served because of the offense).
  • Remove any rules to automatically exclude candidates with criminal records from employment.
  • Create a process to individually assess each applicant.*
  • Reconsider procedures when rejecting applicants based on criminal record histories.
  • Update workplace notices once a poster is issued by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

If an applicant voluntarily discloses information regarding a criminal conviction during the application process, the employer may discuss the issue with the applicant at that time.  Also, the employer may inform the applicant of its intent to conduct a criminal background check after any conditional offer of employment is made.

*The new amendments require an individual assessment which considers:

  • The nature of the offense;
  • The time that has passed since the offense;
  • The applicant’s employment history before and after the offense and any period of incarceration;
  • The particular duties of the job being sought;
  • Any character or employment references provided by the applicant; and
  • Any evidence of the applicant’s rehabilitation since the conviction.

If an employer rejects an applicant for a job opening based in whole or in part on criminal record information, the employer shall notify the applicant in writing of such decision and its basis, and shall provide the applicant with a copy of the criminal history report.  The employer shall allow the applicant ten (10) business days to provide evidence of the inaccuracy of the information or to provide an explanation.