Labor & Employment Law I JULY 22, 2014

The New Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act

This new Act prohibits an employer or employment agency from inquiring about, considering, or requiring disclosure of the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until the applicant has been determined qualified for the position and notified that he or she has been selected for an interview or, if there is not an interview, until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

An “applicant” is any person pursuing employment with an employer or through an employment agency.

An “employer” is any person or private entity that has 15 or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such an entity or person.

The requirements of the Act do not apply for positions 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 which case an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of those offenses; or
  3. employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.

Note that the Act does not prohibit an employer from notifying applicants in writing of the specific offenses that will disqualify an applicant from employment in a particular position due to federal or State law or the employer’s policy.

The Illinois Department of Labor will investigate alleged violations of the Act. If a violation has occurred, the Director of Labor may impose the following penalties:

  1. For the first violation, a written warning to the employer. The employer has 30 days to remedy the violation;
  2. For a second violation, or if the first violation is not remedied within 30 days of notice, the Director may impose a civil penalty of up to $500;
  3. For the third violation, or if the first violation is not remedied within 60 days of notice, an additional civil penalty of up to $1,500; or
  4. For subsequent violations, or if the first violation is not remedied within 90 days of notice by the Department, the Director may impose an additional civil penalty of up to $1, 500 for every 30 days that passes.
Penalties may be recovered in a civil action brought by the Department in any circuit court or in any administrative proceeding under the Act, which takes effect January 1, 2015.