Philadelphia amends Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards| Chris Christian, Director of Compliance

March 14th, 2024 | Chris Christian, Director of Compliance

Ordinance Amendments 

On December 20, 2023 City of Philadelphia Mayor, Cherelle Parker, signed File 2307571 which amended Chapter 9-3500 of The Philadelphia Code entitled “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards,” to add provisions regarding the consideration of convictions that result in exoneration. The amended ordinance is effective January 19, 2024. 

As background, Philadelphia’s Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards (the “Standards”) ordinance initially took effect in 2011 making Philadelphia among the first cities to ban the box for private employers. Subsequent amendments to the Standards in 2018 and 2021 have also been made by the city. The Standards, in general, prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been made. The Standards also prohibit employers from taking any adverse action against candidates for arrest records that did not result in conviction (baring pending records that are determined by the employer to bear on the relationships to the employee’s duties). Employers that do take adverse action on a job candidate’s criminal record must conduct an individualized assessment of the risk presented by the criminal records.  

The recent amendment to the Standards specifically addresses employers use of criminal convictions subject to exoneration by making the use of exonerated records an unlawful discriminatory practice by private employers to reject an applicant or employee based on a conviction that resulted in exoneration. The ordinance defines exoneration as “the reversal or vacation of a conviction by pardon, acquittal, dismissal or other post-conviction re-examination of the case by a court or other authorized government official.”  

The new amendments also modified existing ordinance language related to an employer’s criminal lookback consideration of a conviction record. The existing language indicated employers may consider convictions only to the extent that the conviction occurred fewer than seven years from the date of the inquiry. The new amendments added to this language to also include any conviction that did not result in exoneration. 

Take Aways 

Employers should consider reviewing and updating their background screening policies and practices as they relate to expunged records. Employers should consider their practices when dealing with situations where candidates disclose an exonerated criminal conviction in interviews or on an employment application. In additional to compliance with Philadelphia’s ordinance on exonerated criminal convictions, employers should also be mindful of the state’s recent amended law HB 689 that also prohibits employers use of expunged records for employment purposes. The city’s amendments are indicative of the recent legislative movement known as “Clean Slate”. Employers should familiarize themselves with these laws to make necessary changes to their screening policies and practices. 

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