Philadelphia Employment Law News

Philly Now Bans Criminal Record Questions On Job Applications

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recently signed an ordinance prohibiting employers from asking about a prospective employee’s criminal record on a job application. My Fox Philly reported the legislation will apply to both private employers and city agencies, which Nutter says will make it easier for ex-offenders to be considered for a job “without harmful preconceptions.”

The National Employment Law Project found that 90 percent of employers use criminal background checks, while one in four Americans, or 65 million people, has a criminal record. But according to ESR News, the new measure prevents employers from making any personnel decisions based on an applicant’s record of arrest that did not result in a conviction.

The new ordinance, known as the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act, includes three basic restrictions on an employer's use of criminal records:

  • Employers cannot require job candidates to share any criminal convictions during the application process and through the initial interview. Employers that do not perform interviews may not collect information about a criminal conviction during the hiring process.
  • Employers are banned from asking job seekers or employees about a criminal arrest that is not pending and has not resulted in a conviction.
  • Employers may not make any adverse actions against an applicant or employee because of a past criminal arrest of accusation where the person was not convicted.

The ordinance will become effective 90 days after April 13, 2011, which is when it was passed, and applies to employers, including temporary employment and job placement agencies, with 10 or more workers in Philadelphia. Companies or businesses that violate the act are subject to a $2,000 fine for each violation made.

However, Philadelphia job seekers must keep in mind that employers are still allowed to perform general background checks that include criminal records and may ask about such information after the first interview, whether on the phone or in person.

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