This past Monday, July 21, 2014, Illinois joined Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island as the fifth State to enact a so called “ban the box” law.  Signed by the Governor, the law will take effect on January 1, 2015.  Called the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, the law prohibits private sector employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal record or history until after the employer has scheduled an interview.  If the hiring decision is made without interview, then the employer cannot ask until after it has made a conditional offer of employment.  The law applies to all private sector employers with 15 or more employees.  Exceptions to this new law include: (1) jobs which cannot be held by convicted criminals under federal or state law, (2) jobs requiring licensing under the Emergency Medical Services System Act, and (3) a limited exception for jobs requiring fidelity bonds.

The Illinois Department of Labor is empowered to investigate violations and impose civil penalties for violations of the Act. Multiple violations and failures to remedy violations can lead to heightened or additional penalties.

All employers operating in Illinois are encouraged to review their application documents and ensure that questions about criminal history are deleted before January 1, 2015.  Employers are also encouraged to revisit their background check procedures to make certain that their screens are not pulling up criminal history information before it is allowed under the new law.