New Philly law bans job application question on criminal past

Job applicants with criminal records will now have one fewer obstacle to getting a job in Philadelphia. The “ban the box” law, signed by Mayor Michael Nutter in April, takes effect Friday.

“Ban the box” prohibits Philadelphia businesses with more than 10 employees from asking applicants — on job applications and during an initial interview — if they have any criminal convictions. They can be asked later in the hiring process.

The law will give ex-offenders a fair shot, said Kevin Dow, the city’s deputy commerce director.

It “doesn’t guarantee them the job,” he said. “It is just designed to give that applicant a leg up — at least to be able to get their foot in the door.”

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Employers who break the law face a warning notice for a first offense, and a fine of up to $2,000 for each infraction after that.

Employment is a vital part of getting ex-offenders back on their feet as self-sufficient members of society, said Dennis Roberts of Resources for Human Development, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that operates in more than a dozen states. .

” ‘Ban the box’ is something that Philadelphia should be quite proud about,” Roberts said. “It is overdue because it has been an impediment for a number of folks both men and women who were trying to work their way back into society.”

The “ban the box” law does not apply to jobs with courts, prisons or the police department.

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