HR Update: Illinois Implements “Ban the Box” Law
The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (Act), also known as “ban the box,” places restrictions on when employers may make pre-employment inquiries into an applicant’s criminal background or history. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and will impact Illinois employers’ hiring practices.
The Act applies to private employers that have 15 or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year, as well as employment agencies. Public employers are excluded from the Act.
Under the Act, a covered employer or employment agency may not inquire about, consider or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record or history until after the applicant has been determined qualified for the position and the employer or agency has notified the applicant that he or she has been selected for an interview. In the case of a position for which an employer does not conduct interviews, inquiries into an applicant’s criminal background or history cannot occur until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to the applicant.
Although the Act places restrictions on pre-employment inquires, employers may notify applicants in writing of specific offenses that will disqualify them from employment due to a federal or state law, or due to the employer’s policy. Additionally, the Act itself does not prohibit employers from denying applicants who have been convicted of certain offenses from a position as long as the process for inquiring about those convictions has been followed.
The requirements of the Act do not apply to certain exempted positions. Specifically, it does not apply to positions where:
- Employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to a federal or state law;
- The position requires a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond, and an applicant’s conviction of one or more specified offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining the bond; or
- The position requires licensing under the Emergency Medical Services System Act.
The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is responsible for investigating alleged violations of the Act. If the IDOL finds that a violation has occurred, it may impose penalties ranging from a written warning for a first violation up to $1,500 fines for repeated violations or failure to remedy a previous violation.
Compliance Steps for Employers
Employers should thoroughly review their employment applications and policies to ensure that they are in compliance with the Act and other state and federal laws regarding handling arrest records and convictions.