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Illinois Law Limits Employment Related Criminal Background Checks

background checks, criminal history, Illinois Defense LawyerAs mentioned briefly in a previous post, legislation went into effect this year in Illinois aimed to help job-seekers overcome past mistakes by limiting background checks in the application process. Last summer, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act was signed by then-governor Pat Quinn. The law restricts employers or their agents from checking an applicant’s criminal history prior to a determination that the applicant is qualified for the position. Illinois is now the fifth state in the nation to have passed such a law.

For employers who conduct interviews, the new law means a criminal background check may not be conducted on an applicant before he or she is extended an interview offer.  An employer who forgoes the interview process must make a conditional offer of employment prior to inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history. The law applies to private employers with fifteen or more employees.  Illinois law already prohibits government agencies from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on initial job applications.

“Ban the Box” in Illinois

The legislation was dubbed the “ban the box bill” by some proponents because it prohibits employers from requiring applicants to check a box on a job application regarding criminal convictions. The Illinois law does not apply in three specific instances:

  • In certain cases when the law expressly requires exclusion of those with criminal convictions;
  • When a standard fidelity bond or equivalent is required and the conviction specifically disqualifies applicant from meeting that standard;
  • For employees employed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

Then-Governor Quinn signed the legislation, citing the need to provide all qualified applicants, regardless of criminal record, the opportunity to obtain employment as a driving factor behind the new law.  The law provides for civil penalties against employers who violate the law, which range from written warnings to $1,500 fines per infraction.

Individuals with criminal records may benefit from this law because it requires employers to assess whether applicants are qualified for a position before looking at criminal history. According to one Chicago-based nonprofit organization, there are approximately 4 million people in Illinois who have criminal records that would reveal an arrest or conviction in a routine criminal background check.

The issue of  employers conducting criminal background checks during the initial stages of the application process has been garnering more attention in recent years.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a guidance document in 2012 which discouraged the use of general criminal record inquiries in the initial application process.

Get Legal Help

If you have a criminal record, a qualified criminal attorney regarding can help you understand your options regarding the process of closing or sealing your record known as expungement. Additionally, if you have applied for a job and believe the employer did not act in accordance with the provisions of the new law, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in DuPage County today. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call the office of Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, at (630) 260-9647.

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