By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Several Philadelphia advocacy groups are applauding one of the area’s largest employers for changing its hiring practices to give those with criminal records a better chance at a job. And they’re hoping other companies take note.
Stephanie Settles says she applied for a customer service job at Sunoco in June, but the company sent her a letter saying they would not hire her because her arrest five years earlier — an arrest that did not end with a conviction.
“It hurt me,” she recalls. “And then I was, like, this is a against the law, I know they can’t do this.”
Settles took the rejection letter to the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (“PILCOP”).
“State law prohibits employers from turning somebody down for a job simply because they are arrested for something they were never convicted of,” says Ben Geffen, an attorney at PILCOP “State law also says you cannot be turned down for a job for an old criminal conviction that is not related to the job you are applying for.”
Roughly one in five adults in Philadelphia has a criminal record, with minority populations most likely to fall into this category.
Geffen says when PILCOP reached out to Sunoco, the company, to comply with the law, had already independently revised its process for reviewing criminal records.
“We’re thrilled that Sunoco’s doing this, and we want to get the word out to other employers,” he says. He adds that together, Pennsylvania’s “Criminal History Records Information Act” and Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” ordinance allow those with criminal records to get their foot in the door at a company to make the case for why they should be employed.
“This is an important law that protects the rights of people who have criminal records,” he says.
As for Settles, she is now employed elsewhere, but glad she spoke up.
“That’s a big corporation,” she tells KYW Newsradio. “For them to change their policy — it felt really good.”