Philadelphia recently amended its Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards ordinance to give job applicants even more benefit of the doubt when it comes to their criminal backgrounds. Known as the Fair Chance Hiring Law (Ban the Box), the City of Philadelphia ordinance makes it illegal for employers to ask about criminal backgrounds during the job application process.
The ordinance originally took effect in 2011, but amendments to the law go into effect on March 14, 2016, and covers workplaces in Philadelphia with one or more employees. Certain employers are exempt, especially when security or fiduciary responsibilities come into play.
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (CHR) released the required notice, and employers will need to display it two places: on the employer’s website and in physical locations where applicants and employees can read it.
What Changed in the Philadelphia Fair Chance Hiring Law?
The City said their original ordinance didn’t go far enough to make sure that criminal records were used fairly during the application and screening process.
The 2016 amendment:
- Expands coverage to more employers (businesses with one or more workers).
- Prohibits any questions about criminal records on job applications.
- Delays when an employer can run a criminal background check (after making a conditional employment offer).
- Broadens the period of time in an applicant’s history that an employer can consider criminal convictions to within 7 years of date of application (not including times of incarceration).
- Prohibits employers from asking at any time about arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction
- Requires employers to weigh criminal record information against the requirements of the role. The only reason an employer can reject a qualified applicant based on criminal history is if the record indicates that the applicant is an “unreasonable risk”.
Additionally, employers must notify in writing any applicants rejected from consideration based on criminal history the reason and provide the criminal history reports. The rejected applicant then has 10 days to respond.
What is the Philadelphia ‘Ban the Box’ Ordinance?
According to the City, Philadelphia’s Ban the Box ordinance is intended to:
“…encourage the hiring of qualified ex‐offenders by ensuring that employers screen applicants based on their work qualifications, without consideration of their prior criminal history. The Ordinance also aims to reduce recidivism through the employment of qualified ex-offenders.”
The statute makes it unlawful for employers to:
- Include questions about criminal conviction from their job applications.
- Conduct criminal background checks prior to the first job interview.
- Make any inquiry regarding a job applicant’s criminal convictions before or during the first interview. However, if the applicant voluntarily discloses any information regarding his or her criminal convictions during an interview, the employer may discuss that criminal conviction after disclosure by the applicant.
- Gather any information regarding the applicant’s criminal convictions if the employer does not conduct an interview.
- Terminate or make any other employment decision based on closed cases that did not result in criminal conviction.