Illinois took a big step last month by joining the growing number of states that make it illegal for an employer to require candidates fill out mentions of criminal convictions on their job applications. The HB5701 bill named the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act was signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in July. It will come into effect from January 1, 2015.
States and cities that have already passed similar laws include Massachusetts, Minnesota, Hawaii, Rhode Island and cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia. Even though the EEOC’s 2012 Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions made it quite clear that employers should be very cautious in using the criminal history of job candidates in employment decisions, many employers continue to ignore such guidance until local laws are passed.
HB5701 says on Employer pre-screening that an “employer or employment agency may not inquire about or into, consider or require disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until the applicant has been determined qualified for the position and notified that the applicant has been selected for an interview by the employer or employment agency or, if there is not an interview, until after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant by the employer or employment agency.”
The law does not apply where: (1) employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law; (2) a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining such a bond. In this case an employer may include a question as to whether the applicant has ever been convicted of those particular disqualifying offenses. (3) Employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.
However, employers are not precluded from notifying applicants in advance and in writing of specific offenses that will disqualify an applicant from employment in a specific job position due to the employer’s policy, or due to federal or state law.