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Illinois Enacts “Ban-the-Box” Law

Posted on in Criminal Law

Ban-the-Box, criminal convictions, criminal history, criminal justice system, criminal records, employment, job applicant, job applicant criminal history, McHenry County criminal defense attorneyJuly 21st saw Governor Quinn sign a new bill into law that protects job applicants with criminal records from inquiries about their history, at least during the early portion of the interview process. These laws, known informally as “Ban-the-Box” laws in reference to the criminal history check box on job applications, have been adopted across the country. Illinois is the 12th state to pass such a law. However, it is important for people who have interacted with the criminal justice system to understand that this is not a blanket prohibition on employers asking about criminal histories. Instead, it is limited to certain employers at certain times throughout the interview process.

What the Law Forbids

The new Ban-the-Box law forbids employers from asking about a job applicant's criminal record until the employer has already determined that the applicant is qualified for the job in question. Ordinarily, this means that the employer must wait until they have extended an invitation to come in for a job interview before inquiring into an applicant's criminal record. However, if no job interview is required, then the employer must wait until they have extended an actual offer of employment, but employers may make such offers conditional on the outcome of a background check. From a practical perspective, this means that employers may not ask about criminal records on initial job application forms.

When Employers May Ask about Criminal History

The law does make exceptions for certain employers. In addition to the fact that all employers are allowed to ask after extending an interview invitation, some may still ask at the initial application stage. There are three classes of employers that may still ask about criminal convictions during the early stages. First, there are some employers who may not hire employees with certain criminal convictions because they are forbidden to do so by state or federal law. Second, employers with openings for positions requiring a fidelity bond—a type of insurance coverage for employee dishonesty—may inquire. Third, employers licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act may ask in the early stages about criminal convictions. However, the exception does not apply equally to all three.

The difference relates to the way fidelity bonds work. Specifically, a person with certain crimes on his or her record makes them ineligible to receive a fidelity bond. Employers who are attempting to fill positions may ask about those specific, disqualifying crimes, but the rest of the applicant's criminal history is still off limits. Conversely, employers who fall into one of the other two categories have free reign to ask about any portion of the applicant's criminal history.

If you or a loved one has recently been charged with a crime, contact a McHenry County criminal defense attorney today. Our firm's team can help you keep your record clean, which can lead to better job prospects in the future.

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