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City of Chicago and State of Illinois "Ban the Box" Laws Now in Effect

By Jonathan M. Boulahanis / Feb 17, 2015

As of January 1, 2015, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago have instituted laws that "Ban the Box," meaning private employers are restricted from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history on the initial application. The laws do not bar an employer from inquiring about criminal history, or basing a hiring decision on criminal history, but the laws do set out a specific timeframe for when such inquiry is appropriate. Specifically, the laws prevent inquiry, consideration and disclosure of a job applicant's criminal record until the employer has selected the applicant for an interview or, if there are no interviews, until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

The State of Illinois Ban the Box law applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. The City of Chicago law mirrors the State of Illinois law, except that it applies to all private employers, no matter the size. Violations of the law result in statutory fines and penalties, and can impact business license status. Currently, there is no private right of action to bring suit based on alleged violations.

Employers in the City of Chicago should examine their current application and hiring process to ensure that it complies with the Illinois Human Rights Act and the City of Chicago Human Rights Ordinance. If your application currently asks for arrest or conviction history, it is no longer in compliance with Illinois law. Your application may state affirmatively that job applicants will be subject to a criminal background check.

If you have any questions regarding navigating these laws, or others, in the hiring process, please contact Jonathan Boulahanis at (312) 985-5930 or jboulahanis@clarkhill.com or another member of Clark Hill's Labor and Employment team.