HR Management & Compliance

Illinois governor signs law prohibiting criminal history inquiries on job applications

by Steven L. Brenneman

Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP

On July 21, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, which will prohibit most private-sector employers and employment agencies with 15 or more employees from asking applicants about their criminal histories and conducting criminal background checks until after applicants are deemed qualified for a job. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

Under the law, employers may not inquire about, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until he has been deemed qualified for a position and has been notified that he has been selected for an interview. If there is no interview, the employer may not inquire into the applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment.

The law contains some exceptions, including positions involving fidelity bonding, employers employing licensees under the Emergency Medical Systems Act, and employers that are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions because of federal or state law.

In signing the legislation, Governor Quinn stated, “Everyone deserves a second chance when it comes to getting a job. 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.”

By passing the law, Illinois becomes one of approximately 12 states that have enacted “ban-the-box” laws that prohibit employers from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history on employment applications and during the selection process.

Illinois employers should plan now for the new law. By January 1, 2015, covered employers must ensure that application forms and hiring processes do not inquire into a candidate’s criminal history until he is selected for an interview. If there is no interview, you must wait until a conditional offer of employment is made to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history.

For more information on the law, see the August issue of Illinois Employment Law Letter.

Steven L. Brenneman is a partner and chair of the employment law group at Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll, LLP and an editor of Illinois Employment Law Letter. He can be reached at