Amendments to Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” initiative (Fair Criminal records screening ordinance) took effect on 14th March. Prior to the amendments private employers (10 employees or more) were prohibited from criminal records enquiries until post initial interview. The amendments now cover almost all employers down to one employee. There is, however, one exclusion which covers a private residence. That being an exclusion of employees providing domestic services within an employer’s residence. The amendments confirm Philadelphia’s employers shall not include criminal records (history) questions in applications. It is no longer compliant for applicants in Philadelphia to be directed to not answer such questions.

Companies and employers who are multi state will be required to use separate application forms. If this is not possible then consideration should be given to a blanket application form less criminal records history questions. Inquiries about any past criminality can only be broached post conditional offer. The changes have far reaching implications and a substantial increase of lawsuits and civil liability come with it. Significant other limitations include employers only considering criminal records for a period of 7 years from making their checks (excludes incarceration periods). the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations will now administer the ordinance.

An offer of employment may be withdrawn if they are considered to pose an unacceptable risk. Also that failure to meet physical or legal job requirements. There are a number of other points in respect of criminal records. That being employment history pre and post offense and duration of incarceration. Timer lapsed since offense and the nature of same. What duties does the job entail along with employment and character references. Rehabilitation since any previous convictions. The applicant must also be allowed 10 days should they wish disprove any criminal records background check and/or put forward an explanation.

Employers are urged to contact The Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights for a poster. It would also be prudent for all employers to remind their existing employees (hiring) to refrain from criminal records history until after a conditional offer of employment. For further reading and finer legal points please follow this link. The above is offered strictly as general information and reference and does not and should not constitute legal advice.

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