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Ban the Box in Philadelphia - What Should Companies Know

Employers in Philadelphia should be mindful of their city-specific “Ban the Box” restrictions and regulations in the hiring process. The Philadelphia “Ban the Box” law generally prohibits employers from asking job applicants or current employees about arrests or criminal accusations that did not result in a conviction. 

What is Philadelphia's "Ban the Box" Law?

The Philadelphia Fair Chance Hiring Law, which strengthened the city's Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, prohibits Philadelphia employers from inquiring about arrests and convictions of the applicant in the hiring process so that employers make hiring decisions based on work qualifications, not a person’s criminal record. This is also more commonly referred to as Philadelphia “Ban the Box” law.

Further, according to Philadelphia’s Fair Chance Hiring Law, past criminal convictions may only be considered if they have occurred less than 7 years from when an applicant applies. Lastly, if an arrest was made but DID NOT lead to a conviction, it may not be used in employment decisions. 

As many other municipalities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and San Francisco, Philadelphia uses the “Ban the Box” law to encourage the employment of qualified ex-offenders to reduce discrimination in the hiring process and reduce the number of people who become repeat offenders.

The Philadelphia “Ban the Box” is administered by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR)

What Businesses Philadelphia's "Ban the Box" Law Applies To

Philadelphia “Ban the Box” law applies to:

  • Both city and private employers with more than 10 employees, but this does not apply to Criminal Justice Agencies (for example, prisons, courts, police departments).
  • All entities the City contracts with for goods and services.

Exemptions

Certain Philadelphia employers are exempt from the “Ban the Box”:

  • Employers that are mandated by state or federal law to consider certain criminal histories of applicants.
  • All Criminal Justice Agencies. For example, prisons, courts, police departments, detention and correctional facilities, and probation agencies. 

Requirements for Employers under Philadelphia "Ban the Box"

Under this law, Philadelphia employers are not allowed to:

  • Include questions regarding criminal history on job applications
  • Ask job applicants or current employees about arrests or criminal accusations where there has not been a conviction
  • Ask an applicant about their criminal history during the application process
  • Make inquiries and any personal decisions based on records of an arrest that did not result in a conviction

Prohibition on Consideration of Juvenile Records

Additionally, all private employers and City agencies in Philadelphia are prohibited from inquiring in any form about applicants’ juvenile criminal records or taking any adverse action against the applicant based on their juvenile criminal records. 

Please note that this rule applies as well when the applicant voluntarily discloses or reveals their juvenile criminal records.

Posting Requirements

Employers are required to post a summary of the Philadelphia “Ban the Box” law in an accessible place on their website and in the workplace, where applicants and employees can easily notice and read it.

Requirements for Employers under Philadelphia

One key exception is that Philadelphia employers are allowed to conduct criminal record checks after determining that the candidate is qualified for the position and making a conditional offer of employment, which is contingent on the candidate fulfilling a specific requirement, such as background checks.

Employers are allowed to screen applicants individually by considering:

  • The type of offense and how much time has passed since it occurred
  • The applicant’s job history
  • Duties of the job being sought
  • Character or employment references
  • Evidence of rehabilitation

Employers are allowed to consider criminal convictions within seven years of the date of application (not including times of incarceration). However, even with this exception, employers are still prohibited from inquiring about arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction.

Can I Reject Someone Based on a Criminal Record

An employment rejection based on a criminal record is only allowed when the employer finds the candidate would be an unacceptable risk to the business or other employees. Employers must notify the candidate in writing about the rejection and provide the criminal history report and allow 10 days for them to respond.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Each violation of the Philadelphia “Ban the Box” shall constitute a “Class III” offense and any person who violates the law shall be subject to a fine.

How to File a Complaint About Criminal Record Discrimination in Philadelphia

To file a complaint about criminal record discrimination in employment, there are several steps:

  1. Complete the Fair Chance Hiring intake form
  2. Submit the form by mail or in-person to:

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

The Curtis Center

601 Walnut St., Suite 300 South

Philadelphia, PA 19106

  1. Wait for a PCHR staff member to review the intake form and meet with you about filing a complaint

Get Help With Philadelphia, PA Labor Law Compliance

Philadelphia employers should make an effort to ensure compliance with the “Ban the Box” law and promote fair employment. For necessary screening during the hiring process, employers should follow the Pennsylvania background check and screening laws to ensure a lawful process. If you have more questions, feel free to consult with a Pennsylvania HR and payroll provider.

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