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City of Philadelphia

Changes to the Ban the Box Law

Examples of unlawful acts under the Ban the Box law

  • Asking about criminal records on an job application.
  • Asking about criminal records during any job interview. 
  • Asking about criminal records at any time before making a conditional offer of employment.
  • Making any adverse personnel action against an employee for arrests that did not lead to conviction.
  • Rejecting an applicant without weighing the type of offense, when it occurred and the connection to the job. 
  • Rejecting an applicant without conducting an individualized assessment. 
  • Failing to provide the applicant with notice of the rejection, and a copy of the criminal background report. 
  • Failing to provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond to the background report.
The 2011 Ban the Box law was effective at removing the “box” from job applications and delaying questions about criminal records, but Philadelphia needed to do more to ensure that criminal records were used fairly. By including portions of state law and federal guidance, Philadelphia’s updated 2016 law prohibits employers from considering background checks before giving an applicant a conditional offer of employment. In addition, employers must make individualized assessments of criminal records; and consider the type of offense, when it occurred and its relevance to the job. If rejected, candidates are given an opportunity to respond to the results of the background check.

Original 2011 Law

New 2016 Law

  • Applied to employers with 10 or more employees (with some exceptions)
  • Removed the “box” asking about criminal records on job applications
  • Allowed employers to ask about criminal records AFTER the first interview
  • Prohibited employers from asking at any time about arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction
  • Barred employers from taking adverse action against current employees based on arrests 
  • Assessed penalties of up to $2,000 for violating the law
  • Applies  to employers with 1 or more employees (with some exceptions)
  • Prohibits any questions about criminal records on job applications
  • Allows employers to run a criminal background check only AFTER making a conditional offer of employment
  • Permits employers to consider criminal convictions within 7 years of date of application (not including times of incarceration)
  • Prohibits employers from asking at any time about arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction
  • Employers must screen applicants individually by considering:
    • The type of offense and how much time has passed since it occurred
    • The applicant’s job history
    • Duties of the job being sought
    • Character or employment references
    • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Allows employers to reject applicants based on a criminal records only IF the employer concludes that the person would be an unacceptable risk to the business or other people
  • If rejecting the applicant, employers must notify the person in writing with the reason; provide the criminal history report AND allow 10 days for the applicant to respond
  • Increases penalties including injunctive relief (requiring the employer to take certain actions), compensatory damages and attorney’s fees
  • If PCHR dismisses the case, or does not settle it within 1 year, a complainant may file a case in court
  • Employers must post the PCHR’s informational poster in plain sight on the employer’s website and premises