City of Philadelphia to Restrict Employer Use of Criminal Record History

Joining a growing list of cities and states imposing restrictions on employer inquires into criminal record history, the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has passed legislation that restricts employer inquiries into, and use of, criminal record history information.

On April 13, 2011, Mayor Michael Nutter signed Philadelphia Bill 110111-A, the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Act, which prohibits employers from including criminal record history questions on an employment application and from making personnel decisions based on records of an arrest that did not result in a conviction.

The new ordinance creates three basic restrictions on the use of criminal record histories:

  • Employers may not ask job applicants or employees about any arrest or criminal accusation that is not still pending and did not result in a conviction.
  • Employers may not require job applicants to disclose any criminal convictions during the application process through the first “interview.” Employers that do not conduct interviews are prohibited from gathering any information about criminal convictions of job applicants during the hiring process.
  • Employers may not take any adverse action against job applicants or employees because of past arrests or criminal accusations which did not result in convictions.

However, the new ordinance does not entirely prohibit Philadelphia employers from using any criminal record history information. Employers may still conduct background screening that includes a criminal record history or ask about an job applicant’s criminal record history, but only after the initial “interview,” which is broadly defined to include any direct contact by an employer with a job applicant – whether in person or by telephone – to discuss the job being sought or the qualifications of the applicant.

Philadelphia Bill 110111-A, the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Act becomes effective 90 days from the date of passage – April 13, 2011 – and applies to any employer that “employs ten or more persons within the City of Philadelphia,” including job placement and temporary employment agencies. Employers who violate the new ordinance’s provisions will be subjected to a fine, currently $2,000, for each violation.

Philadelphia now joins cities such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Madison, Wisconsin, in implementing legislation imposing further restrictions on employer inquires into criminal record history. States including Massachusetts and Hawaii have enacted similar so-called “ban the box” legislation restricting employer use of criminal records that govern private sector employers while other states such as Minnesota, New Mexico, and Connecticut have enacted similar laws applying to public sector employers.

For information on how Philadelphia employers can ensure compliance with the new ordinance restricting employer use of criminal record history, read a publication on the subject from employment and labor law firm Littler Mendelson at:

For related ESR News articles on criminal records, visit For information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is Accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and is a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent helping U.S. businesses maintain legal workforces. For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit or email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at