[author: Amber Lukowicz]
Governor Pritzker signed Public Act 101-656 into law, amending the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), the Business Corporation Act of 1983, and the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003. The Public Act became effective when signed on March 23, 2021. The amendments represent lawmakers’ attempt to eliminate racial inequalities caused by conviction records and address pay inequalities across gender and race. The amendments to the IHRA impact all employers who use criminal records in making employment decisions. The other amendments in this Public Act create further obligations for private employers relating to: (1) for employers with at least 100 employees, new state reporting requirements on the demographics of an employer’s workforce; and (2) for employers with more than 100 employees, significant new obligations to obtain an Equal Pay Registration Certificate relating to ensuring equities in employee compensation systems.
In this Fast Laner article, we focus exclusively on the IHRA amendments relating to consideration of criminal convictions. Be on the lookout for a follow-up Fast Laner article, when we will address the other two changes included in this new law with amendments to the Business Corporation Act and the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which have later compliance requirement dates.
Conviction Records in Employment Decisions
As of March 23, 2021, the IHRA now prohibits the use of conviction records to disqualify a candidate for employment or promotion, or to make other employment-related decisions, except in limited circumstances. Moreover, the IHRA now mandates employers to comply with new procedural obligations when a conviction record is considered and will be used to disqualify an applicant or employee from employment or subject a person to other adverse job actions. Specifically:
The new IHRA Amendment acknowledges that some laws prohibit employers from hiring persons with specific conviction records. In those instances, the employer still must notify the employee or applicant of their employment disqualification pursuant to law. The employee then has at least five business days to respond where the employee can dispute the accuracy of the relevant conviction record disqualifying their employment.
For additional information please click on FAQ for this amendment, which also can be found on the Illinois Department of Human Rights Website.
The bottom line is that Illinois employers must now proceed even more cautiously in making any adverse employment decision based on an individual’s criminal background.