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City of Philadelphia

Ban The Box FAQ

What is Ban the Box?

“Ban the Box”, officially the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, is a law that restricts when an employer can inquire about a person’s criminal history and how it can be used. It helps ensure that employers initially make hiring and other employment decisions based on work qualifications, without considering a person’s criminal record. 

What does the law do?

Makes it illegal for employers to ask about criminal backgrounds during the entire job application process; from the completion of the application until a conditional offer of employment is made.  After a conditional offer is made, the law controls how the employer can use criminal history reports.

When did Ban the Box go into effect?

The law was enacted in 2011; recent amendments go into effect on March 14, 2016.

Which employers are subject to Ban the Box?

  • All employers doing business in Philadelphia with one or more employees, (some exemptions apply).

Which employers are exempt from the law?

Criminal Justice Agencies as defined in the Ordinance (for example, prisons, courts, police departments) and employers hiring domestic services workers to work in their homes are exempt.

In addition, the Ordinance’s restrictions may not apply when employers are mandated by state or federal law to consider certain criminal histories of applicants. However, even where such mandates exist, most employers will be able to comply with both Ban the Box and the state or federal law by waiting until after a conditional offer of employment is extended before conducting a criminal history background check. Unless to make criminal history inquiries; unless the state or federal law specifically requires that the inquiry be made on the employment application or during the first interview, employers are required to comply with Ban the Box.

What happens when the employer finds out about my criminal background?

  • Employers can only consider criminal convictions that occurred less than 7 years from when you apply (excluding time of incarceration)
  • Arrests and criminal accusations cannot be used in employment decisions
  • If your background check reveals a conviction, the employer must weigh many things:
    • Type of offense and time passed since it occurred
    • Connection to the duties of the job being sought
    • Your job history, character references, and any evidence of rehabilitation

What if I voluntarily bring up my criminal history during the application process?

  • If you voluntarily bring up information regarding your criminal conviction during the application process, the employer can discuss the conviction with you.

When can the employer run my background check?

  • Employers can ONLY run criminal background checks AFTER a conditional offer of employment is made. (you receive a job offer from the employer, but it is pending the results of your criminal background check)

Can an employer reject me for my criminal background?

  • Employers can ONLY reject you based on your criminal record, if you pose an unacceptable risk (to the business or other people) in the position you applied for.
  • If you are rejected, the employer must send the decision to you in writing with a copy of the background report used to make the decision.
    • You have 10 days to give an explanation of your record, proof that it is wrong, or proof of rehabilitation. 

What are the consequences for failing to comply?

Employers are subject to penalties including injunctive relief (requiring the employer to take certain actions), compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

Who enforces Ban the Box?

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) enforces the law.

How can I file a complaint for a violation of Ban the Box?

If you feel that your potential or current employer has violated Ban the Box, you can file a complaint with the PCHR.  You can print a copy of it from our website, complete the form at home, and send it to our office by mail, fax or email. You can also complete a complaint form in person at our office Monday through Friday from 9:00am‐3:00pm. 

Where can I receive additional information about the PCHR and Ban the Box?

For more information on how to file a complaint call the PCHR at 215-686-4670 or visit the Commission’s website at