The ”Job Opportunities For Qualified Applicants Act” Limits Criminal History Checks On Job Applicants

After an arrest, a person often faces the prospect of large fines, incarceration, the loss of a job and income. Additionally, even if a large fine or incarceration are avoided, many a defendant who finds himself or herself convicted of a crime will find that their future prospects for advancement via schooling or future job prospects are limited in ways they could not have imagined.

During times of economic hardship, competition intensifies for those jobs that are available. In this age of the internet, more companies than ever before are requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal history and refusing to hire those applicants with a prior criminal history or those who fail to disclose a previous criminal conviction. Unfortunately, many people find themselves being denied work for a minor mistake they made 10, even 15 years ago. A mistake they may have made as a young person; a person whom they presently no longer are.

Effective January 1, 2015, the “Job Opportunities For Qualified Applicants Act,” becomes law in the state of Illinois. The new law prohibits most employers from inquiring into, considering or requiring the disclosure of the criminal background or history of a person who is applying for a job.

The Act’s purpose is to try and level the playing field at the initial application stage for those individuals with a prior criminal history. The fact that presently, most if not all employers inquire as to an applicant’s criminal background often has the affect of keeping people who are employable and willing to work from even applying for jobs. The Act seeks to end this “chilling” effect that being required to disclose a previous conviction has on job applicants who have a conviction in their past.

The new law applies to companies that have 15 or more employees and also covers employment agencies .There are three types of employers that will be excluded from the new law. Section 15 of the Act excludes those companies that employ people licensed under Illinois’ Emergency Medical Services Act, those employers that are required by federal or state law to exclude applicants with specific types of convictions. It also exempts employers that require a fidelity bond where specific criminal convictions would disqualify the applicant.

Under the new law, employers are allowed to list specific disqualifying offenses. The employer is allowed to notify job applicants in writing of any offenses that would disqualify the applicant for employment in a particular position due to the employer’s policy or federal or state law.

The employer may look into an applicant’s prior criminal history once they have been deemed to be qualified for a specific position and is in the interview process or after the employer has made a conditional employment offer.

The Illinois Department of Labor has been given the authority to enforce the new law once it becomes effective in January 2015. Employers who do not comply with the law will be subject to civil fines for repeated violations of the Act and failure to become compliant. The stated goal of the Act is to help those qualified applicants who happen to have a conviction in their past have a level playing field with other applicants at the initial application stage.


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