Effective January 1, 2015, employment agencies and most private employers are prohibited from asking about applicants’ criminal background until they reach the interview stage of the hiring process or, if there is no interview, until a conditional offer of employment is made.
The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (House Bill 5701) provides very limited exceptions – where federal or state law disqualifies applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment, where a conviction of a specified offense would disqualify the applicant from a required fidelity bond, or where the employer employs individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act. For most Illinois employers, the Act will require changes to the application process.
The Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act is the latest in a surge of “Ban the Box” legislation around the country. Illinois becomes the 5th state to enact such legislation covering private employers, joining Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island. Seven cities (Baltimore, Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, Rochester, Seattle, San Francisco) also have similar provisions.
Illinois employers should review application materials to remove questions about criminal history by the end of the year.