On Dec. 15, 2015, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter amended the city’s current “ban the box” law to expand the number of employers it covers and increase restrictions on the use of criminal background checks during the hiring process. The amendments take effect in just 90 days and make several noteworthy changes to the city’s original Fair Criminal Screening Standards Ordinance enacted in 2012.
Among the amendment’s most important changes are additional restrictions on when and how an employer may consider a potential employee’s criminal convictions upon application for employment. The amendment also expands the ordinance’s application to all private employers in Philadelphia regardless of the number of employees, and prohibits policies that “automatically exclude any applicant with a criminal conviction from a job or class of jobs.” Instead, employers may reject an applicant based on his or her criminal record only when “such record includes conviction for an offense that bears such relationship to the employment sought that the employer may reasonably conclude that the applicant would present an unacceptable risk to the operation of the business or to co-workers or customers, and that exclusion of the applicant is compelled by business necessity.”
This requirement that a connection exist between the applicant’s offense for which he or she was convicted and the specific job sought should be familiar to Philadelphia employers. Pennsylvania state law already prohibits employers from using “criminal history record information” in deciding whether to hire an applicant unless the applicant has a record of a felony or misdemeanor conviction and that conviction “relate[s] to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which he [or she] has applied.” 18 Pa. C.S. § 9125.