On July 21, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (HB 5701), which generally prohibits private-sector employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. When this law goes into effect on January 1, 2015, Illinois will join Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island as the fifth state to enact a "ban the box" law applicable to private-sector employers. A number of municipalities, including Philadelphia and San Francisco, have passed similar laws prohibiting the use of check-this-box questions on employment applications inquiring about an applicant's criminal history.
The new Illinois law applies to private-sector employers with 15 or more employees and to employment agencies. The law prohibits covered employers from asking about an applicant's criminal record or criminal history until after the employer has deemed the applicant qualified for the position and scheduled an interview. If hiring decisions are made without an interview, then the employer may not inquire about an applicant’s criminal record or history until it has made a conditional offer of employment to the applicant.
These restrictions do not apply to positions (a) for which federal or state law prohibits the employment of individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes or (b) for which individuals are licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act. In addition, a more limited exception applies to positions requiring a fidelity bond.
Employers with Illinois operations should plan to review the employment application forms they use and make necessary changes this fall in advance of the law's effective date of January 1, 2015. For most covered employers, this will involve postponing until later in the hiring process the time at which questions are asked about prior criminal convictions.