Philadelphia Passes “Ban The Box” Criminal Background Law

The city of Philadelphia has joined a growing number of cities and states in imposing restrictions on employer inquiries into criminal history information. On April 13, 2011, City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed Bill No. 110111-A, which will become effective on July 12, 2011. Philadelphia’s new Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards establishes provisions and requirements for the use of criminal history information by city agencies and private employers with 10 or more employees.  The new “ban the box” ordinance complements Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Records Information Act, which restricts employers from refusing to hire an applicant based on their criminal history, unless that history is directly related to suitability for the position in question.

The Philadelphia ordinance goes a step further and specifically prohibits both public and private employers with 10 or more employees within the City of Philadelphia from even asking about an applicant’s criminal history record until after the employer’s first direct contact with the applicant.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the new ordinance creates three basic restrictions on the use of criminal record histories by employers subject to the act:

  1. Employers may not inquire of applicants or employees about any arrest or criminal accusation that is not still pending and did not result in a conviction.
  2. Employers may not require job applicants to disclose any criminal convictions during the application process through the first “interview,” and if employers do not conduct “interviews,” they are prohibited from gathering any information regarding the applicant’s criminal convictions during the hiring process. (The term “interview” is broadly defined to include “any direct contact by the employer with the applicant, whether in person or by telephone, to discuss the employment being sought or the applicant’s qualifications.”)
  3. Employers may not take any adverse action against an applicant or incumbent employee (e.g., refuse to hire, transfer or promote, or choose to terminate) because of past arrests or criminal accusations that did not result in convictions.

The new ordinance does not entirely prohibit Philadelphia employers from using any criminal record history information, but rather postpones the time frame where such inquiries are appropriate. Employers may continue to conduct background check screening that includes a criminal record history component or inquire about an applicant’s criminal record history, provided that the screening or inquiry takes place after the initial “interview” and does not include information on past arrests or criminal accusations that did not lead to conviction.

In view of the Philadelphia ordinance, employers within the City of Philadelphia are encouraged to review their hiring procedures with legal counsel and take steps to modify job applications requiring applicants to disclose their criminal history. Currently, employers found in violation are subject to a $2,000 fine for each violation.

CARCO Exhibiting at the SHRM LI 20th Annual Conference & Expo

Friday, April 29th – Come to the Crest Hollow Country Club, Woodbury, NY for the 20th Annual SHRM LI Chapter Conference & Expo.  CARCO is excited to exhibit again this year.  Stop by Booth #21 and say hello to Jerry and Steve who can answer all your questions on pre employment screening and show you CARCO’s best in class Onboarding Solution!  We are also showcasing our new online product – CheckToHire – which is the quality solution that small to mid-sized companies have been waiting for to assist in their background screening needs.

We’ve got prizes, too!  Don’t forget to stop by and enter to win!

Maryland Governor Signs the Job Applicant Fairness Act Placing Restrictions on the Use of Credit Checks for Employment Purposes

On April 12, 2011, Governor O’Malley signed into legislation the Job Applicant Fairness Act which prohibits most employers from using credit history in determining whether to deny employment to a job applicant, discharge an employee, decide compensation, or evaluate other terms and conditions of employment unless it meets specific timing and job-related requirements.   This law goes into effect on October 1, 2011.

The Act applies to employers of any size, but excludes various financial institutions, as well as employers who are required to inquire into an applicant’s or employee’s credit history under federal or state law.

Limited exceptions to the Act allow employers to request or use credit information where such information is substantially job related.  This includes positions involving money handling or other confidential job duties.  An employer must disclose its intent to request a credit history check  in writing to the applicant or employee.

In a growing trend, Maryland joins Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii as states that prohibit the use of credit information for employment purposes.   Fifteen other states currently have legislation pending along with the federal H.R. 321: Equal Employment for All Act, which will restrict employers’ use of credit reports for employment purposes.

Unlike other states, Maryland’s law will not provide a private right of action.  Instead, applicants and employees who feel that an employer has violated the Act must file a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry who will investigate the matter.  Penalties may include a civil penalty of $500 for an initial violation of the Act and up to $2,500 for repeat violations.

For more information on Maryland’s Job Applicant Fairness Act and how it affects your business, visit