Phila. bans criminal history job checks

With one signature, Mayor Michael Nutter made it illegal yesterday for most public and private employers in Philadelphia to ask about a job applicant’s criminal history until after their first interview.

NAACP national president Benjamin Todd Jealous lauded “Ban the Box” as an ordinance offering people trying to move on from a mistake a second chance. Similar laws exist in Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico; Philadelphia’s is a Pennsylvania first as it relates to private employers.

“The City of Brotherly Love set a great example when it took in Michael Vick has once again shown it believes in the power of redemption,” said Jealous, who cited racial discrepancies in non-violent drug arrests that effect their ability to gain post-sentence employment. “People hired as a result of this policy will be able to contribute to society as workers and as taxpayers.”

City Councilwoman Donna Reed-Miller, who sponsored the bill, said her office has fielded calls from Pittsburgh, Camden and “as far away as Nashville” seeking guidance on passing similar legislation which eliminates “blanket denials of people with criminal records.” Affecting some 300,000 Philadelphians with criminal records, she expects a reduction in recidivism.

An advisory group will soon be formed to handle implementation of “complaint-driven” enforcement. Said Nutter, “Employers get it, but if we find someone who’s not complying, we will take the appropriate action.”

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