Philadelphia Passes a New “Ban the Box” Ordinance

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On March 31st, Philadelphia City Council passed a new “ban the box” ordinance, which will prohibit most employers from putting a “yes or no” check box on an initial employment application — to ask whether a candidate has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. It also bans the employer from asking about criminal histories during the first interview. The phrase “Ban the Box” refers to check boxes on job applications that ask if the candidate has a criminal record.

The ordinance applies to city agencies as well as private employers with 10 or more employees. Employers who must run background checks to comply with other laws will be exempt.

The first section of this new law prohibits employers from making an inquiry about, requiring a person to disclose, or taking adverse action based on any arrest or criminal accusation that is not still pending and did not result in a conviction. The second sections of this new law prohibits employers from making an inquiry about or require a person to disclose any criminal convictions before the employer accepts the application and completes an interview. If the employer does not interview the applicant, then the law flatly prohibits the employer “from making any inquiries or gathering any information regarding the applicant’s criminal convictions.”

Philadelphia joins the ranks of several other cities across the country, including Chicago and Boston, who have enacted similar legislation.  The “ban the box” trend continues as additional state laws and city ordinances are being introduced throughout the nation, including, Indiana and Washington D.C. as well as Los Angeles, Newark, Durham, and Ann Arbor. The rationale behind the legislation is that it allows job applicants with criminal records to be judged on their merits before disclosing their record.

Impact for Employers

Employers should rethink and revise their hiring and employment based policies and practices in the light of the new laws that are being passed. Specifically, employers impacted by “ban the box” laws should review their employment applications to ensure that any questions regarding an applicant’s criminal history are legally compliant. Impacted employers should also make sure all hiring/recruiting managers are apprised of the new laws through training and revision of policies. Employers should also be aware of the limitations on requesting and using criminal history information throughout the hiring process and have discussions with their background screening providers to ensure they know what information they are getting.

EMP-Check  provides a range of background screening solutions to meet your verification requirements.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.

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