Illinois “Bans the Box” on Criminal History Inquiries on Initial Job Applications

July 23, 2014

Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act

On July 19, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act ("Act"). The Act takes effect January 1, 2015 and states, "An employer or employment agency may not inquire about or into, consider, or require disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until the applicant has been determined qualified for the position and notified that the applicant has been selected for an interview by the employer or employment agency or, if there is not an interview, until after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant by the employer or employment agency." The Act applies to any person or private entity that has 15 or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year.

Exceptions

The prohibited prescreening of an applicant's criminal history does not apply to positions where (1) the employer is required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment, due to federal or state law; (2) a standard fidelity or equivalent bond is required for employment, and an applicant's conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond; or (3) the employer employs individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

Illinois Department of Labor Enforcement

An employee does not have a private cause of action under the Act. The Illinois Department of Labor is responsible for investigating any alleged violations. The penalties for violations range from a warning for a first violation with 30 days to remedy the violation to civil penalties of up to $1,500.00 for a third or subsequent violation of the Act or extended failure to remedy any violation.

Employment Application Impact

Unless an exception to the Act applies, each covered employer in Illinois should revise its employment application to eliminate any inquiries on criminal history, whether or not such employment applications include a caveat that conviction of a crime would not necessarily bar consideration for employment. Such employment applications should be revised and in place, whether online or in hard copy, no later than the January 1, 2015 effective date of the Act.

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