On or about March 31, 2011, the City Council of Philadelphia approved a highly controversial Ordinance, the "Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards" ("Ordinance"), which significantly limits the criminal background information that City Agencies and private employers that employ ten or more employees within the City of Philadelphia can obtain from employees and applicants for employment.

The Criminal History Record Information Act of Pennsylvania, 18 PS § 9101 et seq., currently restricts what employers can do once they learn about an applicant's criminal history. The Ordinance, however, goes further and prohibits any City Agency or covered employer from:

  • In connection with the employment of any person, knowingly and intentionally making any inquiry about, taking any adverse action on the basis of, or requiring any person to disclose or reveal any arrest or criminal accusations made against such person that is not currently pending and which did not result in a conviction; or
  • In connection with the employment of any applicant, to make any inquiry regarding, require any person to disclose or reveal any criminal convictions against such person before and during a first interview.

The Ordinance does not apply if the inquiry is specifically authorized by other applicable law, nor does it apply to a Criminal Justice Agency.

Accordingly, insofar as applicants are concerned, the Ordinance will require City Agencies and covered employers to (1) remove from their initial application forms any questions concerning criminal arrests or convictions, (2) refrain from inquiring about pending or prior criminal charges that did not result in a conviction, (3) refrain from inquiring about criminal convictions until after a first interview, and (4) consider developing a new form to collect information regarding criminal convictions after the initial interview.

Additionally, insofar as current employees are concerned, the Ordinance will bar City Agencies and covered employers from inquiring about or taking any adverse action based on criminal charges unless and until they result in a conviction.