Last month, then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an amendment to the city’s “Ban the Box” law which is set to take effect 90 days from December 15, 2015. This amendment adds to the already burdensome hiring restrictions on Philadelphia employers. Philadelphia is now recognized as having one of the most restrictive policies in the country for employers seeking to perform background checks.
To understand the amendment to the law, it’s important to compare the new policy with the original 2012 “Ban the Box” legislation. When the policy first went into place, it was limited to private employers with at least ten employees. Now, any employer (public or private) in Philadelphia with even as few as one other employee is subject to the law. This is a huge change to the potential reach of this law and burden on employers. It essentially mandates that unless you work entirely by and for yourself, you must now comply with this law for any and all applicants in your hiring process.
Under the previous version of the law, the main obstacle for Philadelphia employers was that they were barred from asking an applicant about his or her criminal history on the application itself or during the initial interview. However, under the previous law, there was no bar on employers conducting these background checks after the initial interview and before making any conditional offer of employment. Now, the most impactful change created by this amendment is that employers can only conduct criminal background checks after the employer makes a conditional offer of employment to an applicant.
Additionally, under the new law, employers are restricted to a window of seven years prior to the application to investigate an applicant’s criminal record. Under the previous version of Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” legislation, an employer had the ability to conduct background checks as far back as they desired.
Finally, the new addition to the law mandates that an employer notify the applicant and send to the applicant a copy of their criminal background check if the applicant is rejected. From that point, the applicant is provided ten (10) days in which to contest the employer’s decision and three-hundred (300) days to file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
PRACTICAL: If you’re an employer in Philadelphia, big OR small, you need to be fully aware of this amendment to the “Ban the Box” Law. If either you or an employee of yours (such as an HR Manager) is charged with interviewing potential candidates for hire, it is critical to cover all bases to demonstrate you complied with the law and engaged in a holistic analysis of the individual before rejecting him or her.
The Law Firm of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell is well versed in Business and Corporate Law. If you’re an employer in Philadelphia seeking to determine how best to defend yourself from claims by rejected applicants who are claiming you violated the “Ban the Box” legislation, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are ready and able to guide you through this new policy.
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