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Philadelphia’s Ban the Box Law

April 26, 2024 Workplace Discrimination

How It Affects You

“Ban the Box” started in the 1990s as a campaign to get employers to remove the check-box on job applications that asks whether applicants have a criminal record. Beginning in the 90s, it gradually spread to other states and later internationally.

Currently, approximately 37 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted Ban the Box laws. The federal government has also adopted it to apply to contractors and agencies. In addition, several national corporations, including Target, Starbucks, Walmart, and Facebook, have adopted it as a general policy.

Ban the Box laws vary based on state and jurisdiction. In some states, they only apply to public-sector employers. Philadelphia adopted this legislation in 2011, and it has since been revised several times, most recently in 2021. Here’s what you need to know about Philadelphia’s Ban the Box law.

The Original Version of the Law

Philadelphia led the way in adopting Ban the Box in 2011; and it was the first major city whose Ban the Box law included private employers. It applied to both private and public sector employers with 10 or more employees within the city of Philadelphia.

Under this law, employers were forbidden from asking about an employee’s criminal history until after they’ve turned in an application and conducted at least one interview. Employers were allowed to ask about an applicant’s criminal record after an interview—but they could not consider accusations or arrests that did not lead to convictions and that were not pending.

Employers who did not conduct interviews were forbidden from asking about the applicant’s criminal history or investigating it at all—although if an applicant disclosed it unprompted, employers were allowed to consider it.

New Amendments in 2015 

In 2015, the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Act (the formal name for the Ban the Box law) was expanded to apply to most employers that do business in Philadelphia. More provisions were added that significantly strengthened the law. These included:

  • Expanding the law to apply to most employers with one or more employees (rather than ten or more).
  • Employers were now required to publish information about Ban the Box and the employee’s rights where they could be seen.
  • Forbidding employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history before a conditional offer of employment was made.
  • Employers could now only look back to consider criminal convictions up to seven years prior to the application date, not including time spent incarcerated.
  • Employers could only reject a job applicant based on their criminal record if they reasonably believed that history presented an “unacceptable risk” to operations, other employees, or customers.

In addition, employers were required to take each individual’s circumstances into account, by considering factors such as:

  • The type of offense and how relevant it was to the job they’re applying to
  • How long ago the offense occurred
  • The applicant’s employment history
  • Evidence of rehabilitation since the offense
  • Employment history and character references

Further, if an employer decided not to hire someone based on their record, they were now required to disclose that to the applicant and give them ten days to respond. 

Further Expansions in 2021 

In 2021, the law was further expanded to apply to gig workers and independent contractors. Any third party that connects contract workers and employers must follow this rule.

In addition, while the first law only applied to those applying for a job, the current law applies to any current employee and prevents an employer from taking an adverse action against them because of their criminal record.

Is Your Employer Violating Your Rights? Contact a Philadelphia Employment Attorney

If you believe your employer has violated your rights under the Ban the Box law, you should speak to a knowledgeable Philadelphia employment attorney.

Employees who experience discrimination due to their criminal record are allowed to sue their employers, with the possibility of recovering damages and attorney’s fees. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.