Illinois Bans the Box

By Michael Klazema on 6/6/2014

House Bill 5701 is cited as the “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act.” The Act prohibits any person or private entity that has 15 or more employees, and employment agencies, from inquiring about, considering, or requiring disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until after applicant is notified that he or she has been selected for an interview. If there is no interview, an inquiry may be made about criminal history only after the employer makes a conditional offer of employment to the applicant.

Exceptions to the restrictions include:

  1. Employers required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law;
  2. A fidelity bond or equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction or one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining a bond. In this case, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of those offenses; or
  3. Employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System Act.

The Act does not prohibit an employer from notifying applicants in writing of the specific offenses that will disqualify an applicant from employment in a particular position due to federal or state law or the employer’s policy. However, employers should proceed with caution because there are other laws and regulations to consider. For instance, it is a civil rights violation in the state for an employer to inquire about arrest or criminal history record information that has been expunged, sealed, or impounded, unless otherwise authorized by law.

The Illinois Department of Labor has authority for enforcement of the Act. The Department will issue a written warning for a first violation. The employer will have 30 days to remedy the violation. If the violation is not remedied within 30 days, or if a second violation occurs, the department may impose a civil penalty of up to $500. If the first violation is not remedied within 60 days, or for a third violation, the Director may impose an additional civil penalty of up to $1,500. Subsequent violations could result in additional civil penalties of up to $1,500 for every 30 days that passes.

House Bill 5701 (2014):

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