Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter yesterday signed a bill amending the Fair Criminal Screening Standards Ordinance. The original law, which went into effect on January 13, 2012, made it unlawful for organizations with 10 or more employees in the City of Philadelphia to do the following:

  • Inquire about or require an applicant to disclose any criminal convictions during the application process and first interview
  • Knowingly and intentionally inquire about, require a person to disclose, or take any adverse action against any person on the basis of an arrest or criminal accusation not pending against that person and that did not result in a conviction

The amended bill, which took effect yesterday, is designed to strengthen antidiscrimination protections for individuals seeking employment with the city and with public and private employers with employees in the city. Key provisions in the amendment include the following:

  • Unlike the original law which allowed employers to conduct criminal background checks after the first interview, employers now may only conduct checks after conditional offers of employment.
  • All employers, public and private, with one or more employees in the city must comply with the law. This differs from the requirement of 10 or more workers in the original law.
  • When deciding whether an applicant should be disqualified on the basis of his or her criminal record, employers must assess the nature of the offense, the time that has passed since the offense, the applicant’s employment history before and after the offense, the duties of the job being sought, any character or employment references provided by the applicant, and any evidence of the applicant’s rehabilitation since the conviction. 
  • Employers may only examine criminal records going back seven years, excluding periods of incarceration, as opposed to previously when they had full discretion to look back as far as they deemed relevant.
  • Employers must notify applicants in writing if they are rejected based on their criminal record and provide applicants with a copy of their criminal history report. Applicants have 10 business days to present evidence negating an item on the report or to provide an explanation. 
  • Applicants have 300 calendar days to file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. 

Mayor Nutter also signed an Executive Order establishing standards for conducting criminal background checks for employment with the city and for evaluating criminal background check results. 

Employers also should continue to handle criminal background checks and all information about criminal records in a manner consistent with employers’ obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Pennsylvania Criminal Records Act, similar laws in other states, and state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

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