Effective July 12, 2011, Philadelphia employers with 10 or more employees will be limited in their ability to inquire about job applicants’ criminal records. Under the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, employers must treat inquiries into criminal convictions much the same way they must treat inquiries into an applicant’s disability under the ADA.
That means they won’t be able to ask about criminal convictions during the application process or during the first interview.
The ordinance defines the application process as beginning when “the applicant inquires about the employment being sought” and ends “when an employer has accepted an employment application.”
Employers may make inquiries about any convictions an applicant voluntarily reveals.
Under state law, employers may not discriminate against applicants based on any pending or dismissed charges. Further, employers may only exclude an applicant if a felony or misdemeanor conviction is relevant to effective job performance.
Note: This move was taken in response to the “ban the box” movement that advocates removing from employment applications the box asking for criminal histories.
Advice: Examine your application forms—paper and electronic—to ensure they comply with state law and local ordinances such as this one.