City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recently signed legislation prohibiting employers from making certain inquiries into the criminal history of a job applicant. The legislation, dubbed the “Ban the Box” law after the check box on job applications asking individuals if they have ever been convicted of a crime, prohibits employers from:

  • Inquiring about, or taking adverse action against any person on the basis of, any arrest or criminal accusation, not pending at the time, which did not result in a conviction;
  • Requiring any person to disclose or reveal an arrest or criminal accusation, not pending at the time, which did not result in a conviction; and
  • Inquiring about, or requiring a job applicant to disclose or reveal, any criminal convictions until after the initial job interview.

Under the new law, an “employer” is defined as any person, company, corporation, labor organization or association, job placement and referral agency, or other employment agency that employs 10 or more persons within the City of Philadelphia. The law does not apply to criminal history inquiries that are required by law, or to criminal justice employers. Each violation carries a penalty of $2,000. The law becomes effective July 17, 2011. Employers should review employment applications to determine whether questions regarding arrests and/or convictions will need to be removed. In addition, employers should review their hiring and interview policies and practices, and ensure that interviewers and recruiters are trained on the new constraints regarding criminal history inquiries.

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