New laws go into effect in Illinois on January 1, 2015, as a result of the recently signed, Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act. The Act places new restrictions on the timing of employer inquiries into the criminal background of potential hires.

The Act applies to every employer, including employment agencies, of 15 or more people of record in either the current or preceding calendar year. However, the law does not apply to public employers.

The law essentially states that any employer covered by the Act “may not inquire about or into, consider or require disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of any applicant” until after the applicant has been approved for the offered position and notified that he or she has been selected for an interview. If the employer does not interview applicants, the employer cannot inquire into the criminal record or history of the applicant until after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant.

The Act, however, does make a few exemptions for select positions:

  1. Certain criminal convictions prevent individuals from working in that position
  2. Where the position requires a “standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond” and an applicant’s conviction of certain criminal offenses would preclude the applicant from obtaining the bond
  3. When individuals are required to be “licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Act.”

Additionally, the Act does not prohibit employers from notifying applicants in writing of the specific offenses that would disqualify an applicant from employment in a particular position due to federal or State law or the employer’s policy.

And, nothing in the Act prohibits employers from denying employment to applicants convicted of certain offenses if the Act’s procedure for inquiries has been followed. However, such action could result in a claim under federal or state law.

The Act does give the Illinois Department of Labor the ability to investigate alleged violations of the Act and to impose warnings (for a first offense) and penalties (for subsequent offenses) for violations.

However, the Act does not provide applicants a new private right of action under the new law.

Given this new law, employers should review their current job application and hiring policies and procedures. Revisions to these practices should include a review onboarding practices and applicant disqualification to ensure that they meet all necessary requirements.

An updated Human Resources Policy and Procedures Manual will provide sound policies and practices that ensure compliance with the law while giving an organization the flexibility to hire the best person for the job.

Contact an experienced Illinois business attorney for advice today at Anthony J. Madonia & Associates, Ltd. Do not wait to get the help you need, call us at (312) 578-9300.


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