Philadelphia bans criminal history questions before job interview

It will soon be illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their criminal background before the first interview. Today Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter held a ceremony highlighting the legislation. The new law takes effect beginning on July 13.

The bill was introduced by Eighth District Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.

The goal is give ex-felons a better shot at getting a job because under the new law employers won’t be able to ask about an applicant’s criminal history until after the first interview.

“What happens is, you know, most of the time when that question is answered, the box is checked, that application is put to the side or actually put in the trash,” Miller said at a recent appearance before the Philadelphia African-American Chamber of Commerce.

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The councilwoman says there are more than 300,000 people in Philadelphia who have been convicted of a crime, and she believes that is a conservative estimate.

“It’s giving them a chance to be interviewed, to be tested, to put down their knowledge, skills and abilities, to have a real assessment before they are just disregarded,” Miller said.

Following an initial interview with the prospective employee, the employer may perform a background check. If an employer does not conduct an interview, no inquiry can be made into the applicant’s criminal history.

Philadelphia is the first city in the Commonwealth to enact this legislation for both public and private employers.

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