Illinois Joins Growing Number of States with Ban the Box Legislation

Friday, August 1, 2014
On July 19, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn approved the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, which prohibits private employers with fifteen or more employees and employment agencies from inquiring about or into, considering, or requiring disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history, until an applicant: (1) has been determined to be qualified for the applied-for position and has been notified that he or she has been selected for an interview, or (2) has been given a conditional job offer. Violations of this Act will be investigated by the Illinois Department of Labor.  This law will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

The Act “bans the box” by preventing employers from screening applicants based on criminal history prior to the interview or conditional offer stage of the application process. It does not, however, prohibit inquiry into or consideration of such history at these later stages. Employers are cautioned to note, however, that the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits use of the fact of an arrest or expunged criminal history record information in making employment decisions, including hiring. Further, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has focused on the consideration of criminal history in employment decisions in recent years. The EEOC’s 2012 Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions should be heeded by employers using or considering the use of conviction records in making employment decisions.

The Act does not apply in the following three situations: (1) if the employer is required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment under federal or state law; (2) a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required and a specific conviction would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond, in which case questions related to those convictions are permitted; and (3) the employer hires individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

Employers are permitted under the law to provide applicants advance notice about specific offenses that would disqualify an applicant due to the employer's policy or due to state or federal law.

Illinois is one of an increasing number of states which has passed “ban the box” or “fair chance” policies to help citizens with criminal histories find employment. 
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