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City of Philadelphia Limits Criminal Records


In April 2011, the Mayor of Philadelphia signed Philadelphia Bill 110111-A, captioned the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Act.  This city has now joined others that impose further restrictions on employer inquires into criminal record history. Massachusetts and Hawaii have enacted similar so-called "ban the box" legislation governing employers. Minnesota, New Mexico and Connecticut have enacted laws that apply only to public sector employers. Several other cities, such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Madison, Wisconsin, have passed similar legislation recently.

The new ordinance creates three basic restrictions on the use of criminal record histories by employers subject to the Act:

  1. Employers may not inquire of applicants or employees about any arrest or criminal accusation that is not still pending and did not result in a conviction. Please note that effective immediately Info Cubic will no longer supply clients with non-conviction information.
  2. Employers may not require job applicants to disclose any criminal convictions during the application process through the first "interview," and if employers do not conduct "interviews," they are prohibited from gathering any information regarding the applicant's criminal convictions during the hiring process. (The term "interview" is broadly defined to include "any direct contact by the employer with the applicant, whether in person or by telephone, to discuss the employment being sought or the applicant's qualifications.")
  3. Employers may not take any adverse action against an applicant or incumbent employee (e.g., refuse to hire, transfer, promote, or terminate) because of past arrests or criminal accusations which did not result in convictions.

The new ordinance does not entirely prohibit Philadelphia employers from using any criminal record history information, but rather postpones the time frame where such inquiries are appropriate. Employers may continue to conduct background check screening that includes a criminal record history component or inquire about an applicant's criminal record history, provided that the screening or inquiry takes place after the initial "interview" (as broadly defined) and does not include information on past arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction.

The Philadelphia ordinance becomes effective 90 days from the date of passage (July 2011), and applies to any employer that "employs ten or more persons within the City of Philadelphia," including job placement and temporary employment agencies. Violations may result in a fine, currently $2,000 (each). Your organization may need to review its policies to see how this change will affect your practices.

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