New Jersey has become the most recent state to “ban the box,” that is, ban inquiries about a person’s criminal record on a job application or during a first interview. Although this has been praised by many and lauded as an important step in limiting discrimination against reformed former convicts, ban the box laws are nothing new here in Philadelphia.

The mayor of the city of Philadelphia, Michael A. Nutter, signed the Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards Ordinance into law in April 2011 as a way to help parolees and reformed former convicts to have a better chance of consideration for jobs they qualify for. The ordinance, better known as the Ban the Box Law, ensures that employers make hiring decisions based on only on qualifications without improperly dismissing a candidate for a past criminal record.

While the full impact of the law is still yet to be known, the NAACP has come out in support of the success of ban the box in even its limited scope. “This bill will help the city build strong, stable communities. People hired as a result of this policy will be able to contribute to society as workers and as taxpayers. They will be able to reunite with children sent to foster care, and remain by their side,” assured Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP President and CEO.

Understanding the Ban the Box Laws

The ban the box laws were passed in Philadelphia as a way to ensure that qualified former convicts had a chance to make a good first impression. Proponents of the law claim that it is the best way to assure that prison sentences can actually provide reforms, so that once a person’s debt to society is paid, they have another chance. The following are the most important provisions of ban the box as it applies in Philadelphia.

  • All employers in the city of Philadelphia who are not directly in law enforcement roles, such as police and prison guards, are subject to ban the box provisions.
  • Employers must remove all questions related to past criminal convictions.
  • Employers may not ask about a candidate’s criminal record during a first meet.
  • Companies may permit these questions once a candidate has been asked for a second or later interview.
  • Employers cannot fire you make any other employment decision based on a closed case for which you were not formally convicted.
  • People who feel that they were violated rights under Ban the Box laws cannot recover damages through the associated legal proceedings.
  • If found guilty of violating this statute, an employer must pay a $2,000 fine for each violation to the City.
  • Citizens of Philadelphia are not protected under this law if the job they are applying for is located outside of the city limits.

The hope is that these statutes will continue to ensure that upon leaving prison, reformed convicts have a real shot at a successful job. Hopefully, other cities and states across the country will follow our example here in Philly, so everyone has the second chance they deserve.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the Philadelphia area or are looking to have a criminal record expunged, we encourage you to call us. Philadelphia criminal lawyer Michael Fienman is here to guide you through the process and improve your legal situation. We are available 24/7 at (215) 839-9529.

View All Blogs