Philadelphia Employers May Need To Revise Criminal History Questions On Employment Applications

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Philadelphia City Seal Small resized 600On April 13, 2011, City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed Bill No. 110111- A, which was passed by the Philadelphia City Council on March 31, 2011 and the new law will take effect on July 12, 2011.  The “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards” law establishes provisions and requirements for the use of criminal history information by certain employers within the City of Philadelphia.  Among other provisions, the new law prohibits employers from engaging in “unlawful discriminatory practices” such as including criminal history questions on employment applications and from making adverse employment decisions based on arrests that did not result in convictions.

Here is a synopsis on how this new law may affect you as a Philadelphia employer: 

  • Any public or private employer with 10 or more employees within the City of Philadelphia is effected;
  • Employers are prohibited from requiring applicants to disclose their criminal history until after the employer accepts the application and conducts the first telephone or in-person employment interview;
  • The use of criminal history questions on an employer’s application before an interview would be considered an “unlawful discriminatory practice”;
  • Employers that do not conduct an initial interview are barred from making any inquires regarding prior criminal history unless first disclosed by the applicant;
  • The ordinance also bars employers from inquiring about or taking adverse action against an applicant on the basis of an arrest or criminal accusation that is not pending and did not result in a conviction, which would also be considered an “unlawful discriminatory practice;
  • The ordinance does not bar employers from using criminal history after the first interview so long as they do not inquire about arrests or criminal accusations that are not pending or that did not result in convictions;
  • The ordinance does not supersede inquiries or adverse employment actions specifically authorized by any other applicable laws;
  • The ordinance does not apply to “Criminal Justice Agencies,” as that term is defined in the ordinance 

Philadelphia’s new “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards” is additional legislation that comes on the heels of other cities, counties and states that further restrict employers inquiring into past applicant criminal history on employment applications.  Many of these laws prohibit public employers; however, may impact private employers as well.  Philadelphia is the first major city to pass a “ban the box” ordinance that affects both private and public employers. To date, there are 26 cities and counties that have similar local laws.  Most affect public employers; however a few local ordinances affect private employers as well.  Employers should seek local legal counsel and re-evaluate their hiring and screening practices to ensure their application and employment practices are legal and compliant.

All information contained herein is provided by Employment Background Investigations solely for the convenience of its readers. EBI is not providing legal advice or counsel and nothing provided within this article should be deemed as legal guidance or advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel to determine their legal requirements or if they have questions on any information provided by EBI.

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