People sometimes make mistakes and bad decisions. For some, the impact of those bad decisions can last for many years, especially when such decisions are related to illegal activity. A criminal history, especially one with certain types of charges or convictions, can be difficult to overcome, even if the individual has successfully committed to a new, positive lifestyle. A new law in Illinois, known as a “Ban the Box law,” however, may offer job-seekers some assistance in this area, possibly making it easier to find employment and improve their lives.
Signed into law in July of 2014, and taking effect at the beginning of this year, the state’s Ban the Box measure is officially titled the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act. The colloquial name “Ban the Box” refers to requirements based on legislation of this type to remove of a “box” from employment applications asking whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. Lawmakers and proponents of such laws have indicated that banning the box can reduce the likelihood that an applicant will be immediately removed from consideration for a job based on a criminal history without first considering other qualifications.
In Illinois, the new law prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record or conducting a background check until the offer of an interview or conditional employment has been made. In practice, this means that criminal history may be a consideration only after the applicant has been deemed otherwise qualified for the available position. The measure applies to private employers with at least 15 employees, and exceptions are permitted for three specified situations:
- Federal or state law requires the exclusion of applicants with certain convictions;
- A standard fidelity bond, or an equivalent, is required for the position, which the applicant could not obtain due to certain criminal convictions; or
- The employer hires licensed employees under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.
The employer is permitted to notify potential applicants in advance that such limitations exist.
While criminal history status is not recognized as a protected class under federal law, misuse of an individual’s background information may result in an employer being held liable under state law. Violations of the Ban the Box law are handled by the Department of Labor, and the Attorney General will represent the department in any court proceeding related to the measure’s enforcement.
If you have been accused of denying an employment opportunity in violation of the law, a qualified lawyer may be able to help. Contact an experienced Illinois employment law attorney today to schedule a consultation. We will review your case and assist you in understanding your options.