“Ban the Box” Law Took Effect

The “ban the box” law took effect last week in Philadelphia, according to media.

New law prohibits employers in Philadelphia from asking applicants if they have any criminal convictions during a first interview. Such questions are allowed during a follow-up interview. But Criminal justice employers and others offering certain jobs – such as child care – are required by law to conduct background checks and are exempted in the bill.

The city put out a release regarding the legislation, which includes this primer:

” The key provisions of the Ordinance include:
•    Questions regarding criminal history may not appear on job applications.
•    Employers may not ask job applicants during the initial interview or current employees about arrests or criminal accusations where there has not been a conviction.
•    Employers may not ask an applicant about his or her criminal history during the initial interview.
•    Employers may ask about an applicant’s convictions after the first interview.
•    If necessary and appropriate, a criminal record check may be conducted after the employer has determined that the candidate is otherwise qualified for the position.
•    The law provides that each violation of the Ordinance is a “Class III” offense and subject to a fine of up to $2,000.
•    The Ordinance is applicable to businesses with 10 or more employees, but exempts Criminal Justice Agencies such as prisons and police departments”.

Supporters of the idea say the goal is help “ex-offenders at least get a foot in the door before having to spell out a criminal history”  and particularly help people with minor offenses on their records get a start in their careers.

Critics of the bill say it will have a minimal affect, since one’s criminal history can be researched after an interview, and will end up simply being a time waster.

According to the National Employment Law Project, at least five (5) major civil rights lawsuits were filed against employers for blanket prohibtions relating to criminal convictions.

Similar legislation has been passed in other cities and states, including Chicago, Atlanta and Boston.Also the U.S. Dept. of Labor put forward an idea of $20 million in grants to help released prisoners find work.

If you have questions about how the various laws affect criminal conviction checks, please feel free to contact me at 215-979-1869 or jsegal@duanemorris.com.

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