Around this time last year, the Illinois legislature was considering a measure aimed at helping job-seekers with an imperfect past overcome their mistakes. The bill was passed, and was eventually signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn, as Illinois joined the growing number of states and cities which have taken steps to aid those looking to create a better future. Known as a Ban the Box law, the measure went into effect on January 1, 2015, and has helped even the playing field somewhat for job applicants with a criminal history.
Provisions of Ban the Box
The law is officially called the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act and was passed as a result of otherwise qualified job-seekers being eliminated out-of-hand for available employment opportunities. There was nothing preventing an employer from asking early in the application process whether an applicant possessed a criminal history and using that information to automatically remove the applicant from consideration.
As a result of the new law, however, an employer with 15 more employees may no longer pose such questions to an applicant so early in the process. The law does not preclude an employer from deciding not to hire individuals with certain offenses in their history, but the background check may not be initiated before the applicant is offered an interview or conditional employment. By forcing employers to look further into an applicant before conducting a background check, the law presumes that individuals deserving of a second chance are more likely to be hired based upon their qualifications rather than simply rejected due to their history.
Exceptions to the Law
There are certain situations in which employers may continue to pre-screen applicants in spite of the Ban the Box law. These include:
- Positions which exclude individuals with certain criminal convictions by state or federal law;
- Positions which require standard fidelity bonds or equivalent bonds, which applicants with certain convictions may be unable to obtain; and
- Employers who hire individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.
Ban the Box Enforcement
While Ban the Box efforts in Illinois are aimed at helping those with a criminal background improve their situations, enforcement of the law falls under the auspices of the Illinois Department of Labor. Employers found to be in violation of the law will be notified by the Department and given 30 days to take corrective action. Subsequent violations or failure to comply may result in civil penalties of up to $1,500 per occurrence.
If you have been charged with or convicted of a crime and would like to learn more about options available to help you, contact an experienced Will County expungement attorney. At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we have helped many clients overcome their past and build a better future for themselves and their families. Call today to schedule your free initial consultation and put our knowledge and experience to work for you.