Expanding the Scope of ‘Ban the Box’ in Philadelphia

By: Christina M. Reger

On Wednesday, Mayor Nutter signed an Executive Order amending the Fair Criminal Screening Ordinance, better known as Ban the Box. The amendments are intended to “encourage employers to consider the whole person and the gravity of the offense.” In signing the amendments, Mayor Nutter proclaimed, “everyone deserves an opportunity to work and to provide for their families and should not be discriminated against because of previous bad decisions.”

Under the Order, no city agency or private employer with at least one employee can ask about criminal backgrounds and arrests on a job application. The employer may conduct a background check following a conditional offer ofemployment. However, if the background check indicates a conviction in the past seven years, the employer must consider the nature of the crime, the time that has passed since the offense and the duties of the job in making the determination on whether toextend a firm offer.

Other key provisions of the amendment include:Employers may conduct a criminal background check only after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

The Ordinance is applicable to all employers, public and private, with oneor more employees.

Employers must consider guidelines when determining whether to disqualify an applicant on the basis of his or her criminal record.

An employer can only examine a criminal record going back seven years, excluding periods of incarceration.

Employers must notify the applicant in writing if they are rejected and provide the applicant with a copy of the criminal history report. Applicants have 10 business days following the rejection to provide evidence of an inaccuracy on the report or to provide an explanation.

Applicants have 300 calendar days to file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

If you are planning on hiring in the new year, you need to consider this Order, even though it does not take effect for 90 days. Oh and don’t forget the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is the federal regulation addressing background checks. Lastly, if you have an employee handbook, it should be updated to address these revisions. If you do not have an employee handbook, . . .well, we should talk.

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