“Ban the Box” Legislation: What Employers Need to Know
“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”
The “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act” (or “Ban the Box” legislation) that took effect January 1st has Illinois employers with 15 or more employees removing this question from their job applications.
The new law prevents employers and agencies with 15 or more employees from asking about or requiring disclosure of a criminal history until the applicant has been determined qualified for the position or conditionally offered employment. The legislation is meant to help those otherwise qualified applicants from being immediately eliminated in the hiring process because of their backgrounds.
The new law will not prevent employers from rejecting applicants because of their criminal past. However, it will prevent employers from asking the question on the application. According to Michelle Rodriguez, a lawyer the National Employment Law Project (NELP), “This [legislation] is about letting people get their foot in the door, and not being automatically disqualified”. However, “you’re not required to hire anyone”.
Not all employers will be subject to the law. Some exemptions include:
–Employers under state or federal mandate not to employ individuals with particular criminal histories. For example, applicants for a position as a teacher, police officer or caregiver for children or the elderly may be asked on a preliminary application and taken out of the hiring pool.
–Employers needing to obtain a fidelity bond (form of insurance to protect against dishonest acts by employees). Since employment is contingent upon the applicant’s ability to be bonded, they can be asked on the preliminary employment application.
—Employment of EMTs (Emergency Medical Technician) Under the Emergency Medical Service Systems Act, the EMTs can also still be required to disclose their criminal history.
The Illinois Department of Labor will issue a warning to employers in violation of the law, providing 30 days to remedy the problem. If an employer repeats the infraction, or fails to remedy the violation after 90 days, they may receive a fine up to $1,500. For every additional 30 days the employer is not in compliance, they can receive an additional $1,500 fine.