Passing a law is one thing. Putting it into action so it achieves the intended effect is another. The city of Philadelphia is experiencing that gap with its “ban the box” policy, which tells employers they can’t ask job applicants in a first interview whether they’ve been convicted of a crime.
City Council knew spreading the word about “ban the box” would be a challenge. That’s why the start date for the rule was set six months after the bill passed last July.
Rue Landau, executive director of the city’s Commission on Human Relations, says she’s sure some employers in Philadelphia still don’t know about this policy, which aims to give ex-offenders a fair shot at finding a job.
“It’s a difficult task to reach every single employer in the city of Philadelphia, but we’re doing the best that we can to make sure that all employers know about the law, and make sure they comply with the law,” she said.
Landau says her office has teamed up with the commerce department and re-entry programs to tell employers about the law and discuss tricky questions such as what qualifies as a first interview.
Ultimately, enforcement will be complaint-driven, Landau says, because she doesn’t have the staff to monitor compliance.
Ray Jones, director of the ex-offender program at Impact Services, says his clients do not know about the policy when they walk in the door. He says his and other organizations interact with only a fraction of an estimated 300,000 people in the city with criminal records.
“I don’t envy the city. It is difficult to get this type of information out there and explained in a way that everyone can feel comfortable with moving forward with it,” says Jones. “That being said, there were cities that have faced this issue and have addressed it and I don’t know that we learned lessons from them.”
Jones says San Francisco and Baltimore, which enacted policies similar to the Philadelphia measure, used a more comprehensive public awareness campaign.