Illinois became the 12th state to enact a “ban the box” law. This refers to the practice of requiring applicants for employment from checking a “box” on an application form disclosing whether the applicant has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. The Illinois law, referred to as the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (“Act”), takes effect on January 1, 2015. Section 15(a) of the Act precludes employers from inquiring about, considering or requiring the disclosure of the applicant’s “criminal history.” This no doubt refers to arrests and convictions. The employer can only make such an inquiry once the applicant is deemed qualified for the position and notified that he has been selected for an interview or if there is no interview, then after a conditional employment offer is made.
Employers should already be careful about excluding applicants who have arrests or convictions, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission believes that automatically excluding such applicants from consideration has a “disparate impact” on minority candidates. For more details on this, visit http://www.gsrnh.com/item/using-arrest-and-conviction-records-when-making-employment-decisions. Employers should develop narrowly tailored policies and procedures for screening each applicant’s criminal conduct that takes into consideration the specific criminal offense and the age of the offense, at a minimum. A further individualized assessment may be necessary depending on the particular employer and job.