Illinois recently joined a growing number of states and municipalities that have passed “ban the box” laws regulating when employers can inquire into an applicant’s criminal history.
The “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act” was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on July 19, 2014. The law provides that private employers with 15 or more employees are not permitted to inquire, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history until (i) the individual has been offered an interview or (ii) if there is no interview, the individual has been given a conditional offer of employment.
The law does have several exceptions, most notably, for employers who, pursuant to state or federal law, are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions.
The Illinois Department of Labor is responsible for investigating violations of the Act, which could result in civil fines up to $1,500. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2015.
Illinois is following the lead of several other states – such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island – that have passed “ban the box” legislation applying to private employers. Several municipalities have passed similar legislation, including the District of Columbia (which is still awaiting approval from the Mayor and Congress) and Newark, New Jersey.
Unless exempted from coverage, Illinois employers should remove from their application materials any inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history and refrain from making any such inquires, whether directly with the applicant or through a criminal background check, until the applicant has been offered either an interview or the position.