[co-author: Ruben Gonzalez]
On Saturday, July 19, 2014, Governor Pat Quinn signed the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, making Illinois the fifth state to ban a private employer from requiring disclosure of a criminal history until an applicant was determined qualified for a position. We previously reported on the legislation's significance in our "Important Changes Coming for Illinois Employers" update last month. As a result, beginning January 1, 2015, Illinois employers (with 15 or more employees) and employment agencies will be forbidden from inquiring into, considering or requiring disclosure of an applicant's criminal record until after the applicant has been selected for an interview or after the employer has made a conditional offer of employment.
The legislation also grants the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) the authority to investigate any alleged violations. The IDOL director may impose civil penalties against any employers violating the legislation.
Illinois employers should review standard employment applications prior to January 1, 2015. Any questions concerning criminal backgrounds, which frequently appear on commonly used employment applications, should be removed to avoid violating the "ban the box" legislation.
Governor Quinn Approves Limitations to Workplace Violence Prevention Act
On January 1, 2014, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act (WVPA) became effective. The WVPA grants employers new tools to protect employees in the workplace against potentially violent individuals, including an employee's significant other, an angry former employee or a disorderly customer. Under the WVPA, employers may seek an order of protection on behalf of employees who are targeted with unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence. The WVPA requires an employer to show that:
An employee has suffered unlawful violence and the accused has made a credible threat of violence to be carried out in the work place
An employee believes that the accused has made a credible threat of violence to be carried out at the employee's workplace, or
An unlawful act of violence has been carried out at the workplace or the accused has made a credible threat of violence at the workplace
On July 16, 2014, Governor Quinn approved changes to the newly enacted WVPA. Effective immediately, the updated legislation includes restrictions against using orders of protection to restrain employees or organizations from monitoring compliance with some worker protection laws. Similarly, employers may not use orders of protection to restrain the right to free speech, the right to assemble or rights guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.
Employers seeking orders of protection on behalf of employee victims of domestic violence must first inform the employee of the employer's intent to seek an order of protection. The updated legislation also requires employers to engage employees through direct verbal consultation and address potential risks to the employee's safety, well-being or legal standing in connection with a potential order of protection, prior to obtaining the order of protection.
Employers should consider whether the WVPA's remedy of filing an order of protection creates a legal duty for employers to seek an order of protection when warranted.