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Philadelphia Gets Tougher on Discrimination in Hiring; What It Means To You

December 23, 2015 Workplace Discrimination

New legislations strengthens restrictions on background checks

People looking for work in Philadelphia recently got a little more protection from discrimination in hiring.

Mayor Nutter just signed an amendment to the “Ban the Box” law. The original law was intended to prohibit employers in Philadelphia from forcing job applicants to disclose criminal backgrounds on job applications or during a first interview.

The amendment makes several clarifications to the original law, including when and how employers may inquire about criminal backgrounds.

The intent of the law is admirable. As Mayor Nutter stated: “By expanding the original scope of the Ordinance and putting in place checks that encourage employers to consider the whole person and the gravity of the offense, we can better support returning citizens and their transition back into the working world.”

Unfortunately, there will always be those employers who thwart the law – knowingly or unknowingly – so it’s important for job applicants to be aware of their rights.

Inquiries After Offers

The amendment pertains to the Philadelphia Fair Criminal Screening Standards Ordinance, also known as Ban the Box. The “box” refers to the checkbox that often appears on job applications, referring to the applicants’ criminal history.

The changes to the law take effect in mid-March 2016. The new provisions state that:

  • Employers can only conduct criminal background checks after conditional offers of employment.
  • All employers in the city — public and private — must comply with the law. Prior to the amendment, the law only applied to employers with 10 or more employees.
  • Employers are restricted to considering only the last seven years of applicants’ records, excluding any periods of incarceration. If a period of incarceration occurred, employers must consider the nature of the crime, the time that has passed since the offense, and the duties of the job when determining whether to offer employment.
  • 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.


What it Means to City Job Seekers

This legislation is a positive for the City of Philadelphia. People who are trying to reform their lives will now have more opportunities to start over. Obviously, being gainfully employed is a critical factor in making a fresh start.

My concern, as I stated above, is that some employers intentionally thwart the law in the hopes that job applicants won’t know any better.

Job applicants who suspect that they’ve been unlawfully passed over should speak to an attorney immediately, as the law allows a 300-calendar day window in which to file a complaint.

Email us at or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation to find out more about your rights.