Philadelphia Law Firm Advises Employers on New ‘Ban the Box’ Law

Hadas Kuznits, CBS Philly, February 1, 2012

New legislation in Philadelphia aimed at giving ex-convicts a chance to make a better first impression at job interviews was the topic of a legal seminar this morning in center city.  Employers were learning how the law is being enforced by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

The law firm of Zarwin Baum hosted the seminar for some of their clients, addressing a new regulation that has been dubbed “Ban the Box.”

Those regulations prohibit employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal background on the initial application.  “Banning the box” refers to the box that would ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”


Bill Hart is executive director for the mayor’s office of Re-Integration Services for Ex-offenders (“RISE”).

“I guess the key concern is, they have to understand that candidates that come to them are no different than anybody else,” Hart says.  “If they’re qualified they should be at least be allowed an opportunity to sell themselves, their skills, and what they can bring for any employer.”

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  • Anonymous

    that descriminates against gang prospects trying to join a gang as they are required to have commited a violent crime so its racist against blacks the white man is being sneaky

  • Anonymous

    You would have to be an idiot to hire a “diverse” workforce.

    Racial discrimination keeps people safe.  If you don’t believe me, check out any multicultural school, just about every one in the USA now.  Ethnic separation is the way to go.

  • The box was a way of firing a bad employee for lying. Why don’t they just call it the you must hire a black felon law

  • Anonymous

    The insanity continues.

     “If they’re qualified they should be at least be allowed an opportunity to sell themselves, their skills, and what they can bring for any employer.”

    Yes Mr. Hart let us examine what convicted felons can bring for their employer, in this case a probable lawsuit from the victim’s family. No background check was conducted, but the murderer admitted he had been convicted of a crime, but was less than forthcoming about the extent of his crimes. The owner gave this guy his “second chance” which resulted in the death of this poor (White) woman and her unborn child. Yes, the killer was a non white male.

    To even suggest that employers are not allowed to ask about a person’s criminal history is putting innocent people potentially in harms way, and absurd beyond the pale.


  • Anonymous

    So basically this means employers have to pay for background searches if they want to avoid discovering they hired a convicted  rapist or axe murderer later?

    • Anonymous

       Yes, they should be doing that anyway.  However, in some parts of the country (guess which parts) there’s pressure to purge public records of identifiers – such as date of birth – which would of course destroy their usefulness. 

      • Anonymous

        But legally some jobs require criminal background checks, daycare and convalescent home workers, bonded service people, etc….  Guess they could keep a separate government database and have a gov agency that ran those checks.

        If it ups the liability for employers (i.e. workplace theft, violent crime, etc….) then it could backfire on minorities because employers just won’t hire black males if they think they could be hiring a dangerous felon that could bring on a lawsuit or cause their insurance rates to skyrocket.

  • I suppose this city ordinance is so complicated that it literally takes a building full of Philadelphia lawyers to explain what one should do to be in compliance.  Paul Newman lives!

    Those regulations prohibit employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal background on the initial application.

    Only on the initial application.  The question can still be broached later on.  However, someone who submits a resume with a mysterious 5-10 year gap in the timeline?  Well, they can pretty much infer that he was stamping license plates during that time.

    “If they’re qualified they should be at least be allowed an opportunity
    to sell themselves, their skills, and what they can bring for any

    If they were so qualified, they would have been working some job commensurate with their qualifications instead of committing felonies.

  • Guest

    I have a friend who works in Human Resources at a Philadelphia media concern who is wrestling with this problem right now. She says that because the city has become the American epicenter of violence against whites (She calls the town “Fort Apache”), Philadelphia is experiencing yet another migration of its (few remaining) white families (read “taxpayers”) AND white businesses into the suburbs. To a city that already has an incredibly high unemployment rate, this is devastating. Because the number of unemployed black males in Philly is so great – and because so many of these have criminal records – the city’s liberal Democratic power elite and black civic hierarchy have concocted what amounts to the legislating of mandatory employment for former felons. My friend says that if the ex-con gets three steps into the interview process, and THEN the employer discovers a murder or armed robbery or rape conviction in the applicant’s past and drops him from consideration, that employer leaves himself/herself wide open to expensive “discrimination” litigation.  (“So, Mr. Smith, you’re saying that my client was a perfectly acceptable candidate for employment UNTIL you found out about his unfortunate past?”) I would personally find it easier to overlook some transgressions than I would others, but considering the rate of recidivism for violent felons, this latest piece of Philadelphia buffoonery makes it crystal clear to me: the damn place has a deathwish!

  • Here’s the fundamental question that virtually everyone responsible for enacting, formulating, explaining and enforcing this policy is not considering:

    For what real legitimate productive credible employment are Philadelphia’s convicted felons qualified?  Do people like Michael Nutbar actually think that the only barrier between a typical convicted felon in his city and a six figure job as a corporate middle manager is his felony sheet?

    Note:  By “credible employment,” I mean actual productive employment where a given institution has a need for your services, and they pay you some amount less than your actual or perceived value to the firm.  I don’t mean government-funded or government-ordained workfare make-work “jobs.”

    • Anonymous

      People who have survived prison have a kind of experience which can be valuable in a business context.  Such a person can sense situations, and head them off, in ways few without a prison experience can.  A person with prison experience who is now honest is very honest.  But judging who is not likely to reoffend is the very hard part: there is no reliable way of doing so.

      • I wish you would elaborate, for I’m trying to come up with a concrete real world relevant example to validate your theory.

        For example, is Philadelphia’s installation of Deloitte supposed to hire a typical Philly ex-con so that he can have a corner office on the top floor next to the regional managers, so he can tell them when a riot is about to start among the entry level accountants on the lower floors?

        • Anonymous

          People who have spent time in prison, say more than two years, possess a level of real world sophistication impossible to achieve otherwise.  They see things most of us would miss.  Ask any cop who actually does police work.  The problem is recidivism, addiction and ongoing personal failings of the kind which landed them in prison to start with.  There is almost always the child support levy.  I concede that judging whether or not an ex con has escaped these pathologies is far beyond the expertise of personnel departments, and small employers.  So my point is largely theoretical; but, an honest ex con who has aged out of the criminal lifestyle can be a very valuable employee in the right situations.

          This kind of person will not steal from you, and will discourage others from doing so.  He will spot grifters a mile away, and warn you.  He will seek to get along in the workplace, help others to do so, and respect the space around the female help.  He brings no sense of entitlement.  I could go on.  I hope I have clarified.

          • Recognizing the body language indicative of someone who is running a scam, perhaps?

  • Anonymous

    Regardless, astute companies will continue to find ways to  privately ‘code’ employment applications they receive. Always have and always will. It’s business survival.

  • That’s a terrible story. First time I’ve heard about it. Thanks.

  • john

    Knowing of a criminal history with a job applicant is just important as his/her job history.  Next I suppose asking for job history and references will be forbidden.

    Just for the record, I once hired an employee with a history of arrest, conviction, and and prison time.  He turned out OK, just as I hoped he would.  But I still would have reserved the right to know about his criminal past.  After all, an employer assumes considerable potential liability if the new-hire turns out to be violent, a sex offender, or a drug user/dealer who leaves drugs on the employer’s property.

  •  Or even more businesses will simply pack up and leave the city.

  • SamuelThomas

    This is awesome for the South! Keep it up you stupid northen libs. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Pretty soon all the undesirables will move from the South to the North for their Free Obamacare exchanges and Ban the box laws. You can have them all!!! Texas is going to start offering free one way bus rides to the North. You guys are about to get some real diversity.