Philly bans felon question on job applications

Pictured: Mayor Nutter signs an ordinance banning employers from asking about a person's criminal history on job applications.

April 18, 2011 12:20:50 PM PDT
Philadelphia's mayor on Monday signed an ordinance making the City of Brotherly Love the latest big U.S. city to prohibit employers from asking about a person's criminal background on job applications.

The legislation, which applies to city agencies and private employers, will make it easier for ex-offenders to be considered for a job and at least get a foot in the door, Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement. Employers are still able to perform a background check after an initial interview with the prospective employee.

"It is already difficult for ex-offenders to get their foot in the door and obtain employment following incarceration," Nutter, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This bill makes it a little easier to be considered for a job without harmful preconceptions by an employer before the first interview."

Chicago, Boston and several other cities have adopted similar measures.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lauded the legislation, and the head of the civil rights organization was on hand when Nutter signed the bill.

"The City of Brotherly Love believes in second chances," Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP's president and CEO, said in a statement. "The city that took in Michael Vick has once again shown it believes in the power of redemption."

In 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick after he served 18 months in federal prison on dogfighting charges. He made the Pro Bowl last season.

Some business groups, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, opposed the law. The chamber supported tax-breaks Philadelphia has offered for employers who hire ex-offenders. It raised concerns that employers would face more anti-discrimination lawsuits under the new law.

About 65 million Americans, or one in four, have a criminal record, while 90 percent of employers use criminal background checks, according to the New York-based National Employment Law Project, which released a report on the issue last month.