Ex-criminals have rights when seeking work

The Public Interest Law Center applauds Philadelphia's improved "Ban the Box" ordinance, which took effect Monday ("Featherman: Debating the ban of 'Ban the Box,' ", March 11). While Philadelphia and a few other municipalities in Pennsylvania have led the way with such ordinances, which prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their criminal records until after a conditional offer has been made, a long-standing but little-known state law protects the rights of job applicants with criminal records.

The Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act prohibits an employer from considering an applicant's felony or misdemeanor convictions that are unrelated to the duties of the job, and it forbids consideration of non-convictions or minor offenses, such as traffic tickets. The law also requires an employer to provide written notice when the decision not to hire is motivated by the applicant's criminal record. The law allows applicants to sue for monetary damages and lawyers' fees.

Awareness of the state law would improve access to economic self-sufficiency for people with criminal records statewide.

|Ben Geffen, staff attorney, Fair Employment Opportunities Project, Public Interest Law Center, Philadelphia,