Illinois Enacts “Ban-the-Box” Law
On July 19, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act” (House Bill 5701), which goes into effect on January 1, 2015. The new law prohibits employers, or any agent of an employer, from inquiring into a prospective employee’s criminal background on its application or during the early stages of application review. Illinois is the latest state to follow the trend towards so-called “Ban-the-Box” laws.
Who is covered under the law?
The Act applies to any employer that is considering an applicant.
An “employer” is defined as any person or private entity that has at least 15 employees in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person or entity.
An “applicant” is any person pursuing employment with an employer or with or through an employment agency.
Exceptions under the law
The Act does not apply to positions where:
The employer is required by federal or state laws to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions.
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.
The employer hires individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.
It is important to note that criminal status is not a protected class under federal law. However, employers will be liable under state law for misuse of criminal history information about an applicant or employee. Alleged violations of the Act will be investigated by the Illinois Department of Labor and violations will result in progressively substantial civil penalties of up to $1,500 per violation.
This new law has broad implications for the job application process in Illinois. Employers should:
Review their hiring policies to ensure compliance before January 1, 2015.
Review their employment application materials and make any necessary revisions before January 1, 2015.
Remove all questions about criminal convictions from applications used in Illinois for positions that are not exempt from the Act.
Refrain from asking questions about or looking into, considering, or requiring disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history during the pre-employment screening process.