Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act
On July 21, 2014, Governor Quinn signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, which limits when an employer with 15 or more employees or an employment agency (hereafter collectively referred to as the “Employer”) may inquire about an applicant’s criminal convictions during the hiring process. The law prohibits Employers from asking or considering criminal history when applicants apply for a job until certain conditions have been met. The law takes effect January 1, 2015.
Under the new law, unless the Employer falls within an exemption described below, an Employer may not inquire about or into, consider, or require disclosure of a job applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until the job applicant has been determined qualified for the position and the Employer has notified the applicant that he/she has been selected for an interview by the Employer. If there is no interview, the Employer may not inquire about or consider a job applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made to the applicant by the Employer.
The foregoing requirements do not apply to positions where:
- Employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law;
- A standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the employer from obtaining such a bond; or
- Employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.
If the law is violated, the Employer will be issued a written warning by the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) and has 30 days to correct the violation. An Employer who fails to correct the first violation within 30 days of notice by the IDOL and/or commits a second violation may be assessed a penalty of up to $500. An Employer who fails to correct the first violation within 60 days of notice by the IDOL and/or commits a third violation may be assessed a penalty of up to $1,500. An Employer who fails to correct the first violation within 90 days of notice by the IDOL and/or commits subsequent violations may be assessed a penalty of up to $1,500 for every 30 days that passes without compliance.
In light of the new law, we recommend that all Employers determine whether they fall within one of the three exemptions above. If an Employer is not exempt, the Employer should make necessary changes to its employment application to ensure the Employer is not inquiring about an employee’s criminal history on the employment application. The Employer should also adjust its hiring procedures so as to ensure that a job applicant’s criminal record and criminal history are not considered until the employee has been determined qualified for the position and has notified the applicant that he/she has been selected for an interview by the Employer. If the Employer does not conduct interviews, the Employer should not inquire about or consider a job applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made to the applicant.
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© 2014 Kimberly A. Sarff, Esq., Quinn Johnston Henderson Pretorius Cerulo