Ban the Box Arrives in Illinois

Illinois joins the growing list of states which have enacted legislation banning employers from asking about criminal convictions on an employment application. The new law, signed on July 21, 2014, applies to private-sector employers that have 15 or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year. It becomes effective on January 1, 2015.

The new law prohibits qualifying employers from asking an applicant about his or her criminal history until after the employer has deemed the applicant as qualified and scheduled an interview. Employer’s that make hiring decisions without interviews are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until the employer has made a conditional offer of employment.

However, this new prohibition does not apply to positions for which employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or State law or employers that employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act. Additionally, employers are allowed to include a question on job applications related to whether an applicant has ever been convicted of specified criminal offenses in situations where a standard fidelity or equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction of one or more of the specified offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond.

The new law also provides a tiered system of penalties for violations. The first violation will result in an employer receiving a written warning from the Director of Labor (the “Director”) and 30 days to remedy the violation. For a second offense, or if a first offense is not remedied, the Director may impose a penalty of $500. A third violation or failure to remedy a first violation within 60 days will result in a penalty of $1,500. For any subsequent violation or failure to remedy a first violation within 90 days, the Director may impose an additional $1,500 penalty every 30 days.