Illinois Enacts “Ban the Box” Law Impacting Private Employers

 

Earlier this year, we discussed the potential for the “Ban the Box” movement to impact private employers in Illinois in 2014.  On July 29, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made the movement a reality when he signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (the “Act”).  “Ban the Box” is a movement that eliminates questions about past criminal conduct on initial job applications.  The “box” refers to where an applicant is asked to answer “yes” or “no” about a criminal past on a job application.  The rationale for this movement is to avoid a potential early elimination for ex-offenders that may otherwise be qualified for a position. 

The Act, which will go into effect on January 1, 2015, will restrict the manner and timing of pre-employment inquiries by Illinois employers about a job applicant’s criminal past.  The Act states that an employer “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.”  If no interview will be conducted, the employer must wait to inquire about or into, consider or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history “until after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant by the employer…”.  The Act exempts certain positions, including positions where:

 Employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions due to federal or State law;

 A standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond; or

 Employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.

The Act applies to private employers who have 15 or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year, any agent of the employer, and employment agencies.  The Act does not apply to public employers. 

Private employers that fall within the scope of this new Act are still permitted to notify applicants in writing of the specific offenses that will disqualify an applicant from employment in a particular position due to federal or State law or the employer’s policy.  Additionally, employers are still permitted to deny employment to applicants who have been convicted of certain offenses provided that the employer follows the proper rules for such inquiries and does not violate other state and federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Since the Act does not go into effect until January 1, 2015, this is a perfect opportunity for private employers to reevaluate its hiring techniques to ensure compliance.

For more information on this topic, contact Stephanie Strickler at 312-334-3465 or sstrickler@messerstrickler.com.