Most private employers in Illinois will soon have to evaluate a job applicant's skills before asking about criminal history under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Saturday.
The new law allows employers or employment agencies in the state with 15 or more employees to ask job applicants about criminal history and conduct a background check, but not until later in the interviewing process. The legislation, which takes effect January 1, will essentially "ban the box" on private sector job applications that inquires about criminal history.
“Everyone deserves a second chance when it comes to getting a job,” Quinn said in a statement. “This law will help ensure that people across Illinois get a fair shot to reach their full potential through their skills and qualifications, rather than past history. It will also help reduce recidivism, fight poverty and prevent violence in our communities by putting more people back to work.”
Illinois is the fifth U.S. state to expand "ban-the-box" policies to private employers. Illinois already prohibits state agencies from asking about criminal history on initial government job applications as part of an executive order Quinn signed back in October.
The private-employer legislation, HB 5701, was sponsored by State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) and State Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago). The bipartisan Illinois Employment Restrictions Task Force recommended the legislation.
The new measure does not apply to certain construction jobs and positions under the Emergency Medical Systems Act and the Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor and Locksmith Act. Other jobs where employers have to disqualify applicants with certain criminal convictions due to federal or state law are also exempt.
“By allowing applicants to undergo the interview process without being judged as unfit for employment because of their background, we will help individuals get back to work, pursue a higher education and become the responsible residents that our state thrives on,” Mayfield added. “I believe this legislation will improve the lives of many residents and give them the opportunities they were previously unable to strive for.”