Pennsylvania Litigation Blog
Employers Should Beware of "Ban the Box" Legislation
In April 2011, the City of Philadelphia enacted a new ordinance entitled the “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards.” Referred to as the “ban the box” legislation because of its stated intent to ban the criminal history “box” on employment applications, the ordinance restricts employer inquiries regarding, and use of, criminal record information. Specifically, employers (defined as employing 10 or more persons) may not make an inquiry regarding or take adverse action based upon non-conviction information (arrests), and may not make any inquiry regarding criminal conviction information during the application process, before the first interview or during the first interview.
However, the ordinance does permit employers to process criminal background checks after the first interview has occurred. In addition, employers who are required to conduct background checks due to industry regulations or the nature of their business will be exempt from this new law.
Employers found in violation are subject to a fine, which is currently $2,000 for each violation. The Ordinance becomes effective July 13, 2011.
A number of cities, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, have recently enacted similar legislation. Although the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards applies only to applicants who are applying for jobs in the City of Philadelphia, based on recent trends, employers throughout Pennsylvania should be prepared for potentially similar ordinances to be proposed in other localities throughout the Commonwealth in the future.
As it stands now, employers in the City of Philadelphia will need to remove questions regarding criminal convictions from their employment applications, and train those who interview applicants to refrain from inquiring as to criminal convictions during an applicant’s initial interview.
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