Ban The Box Law Will Soon Apply to Small Chicago Employers

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Jason Tremblay

E. Jason Tremblay

On November 5, 2014, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that effectively makes the recently-passed Illinois’ Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (commonly known as the Ban the Box Law) apply to Chicago employers with fewer than 15 employees. The purpose of the ordinance is to remove employment barriers for applicants in Chicago with prior arrest or criminal records.

The Chicago ordinance prohibits Chicago employers with fewer than 15 employees to inquire about or into, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until after the applicant has been determined qualified for the relevant position and notified that the applicant has been selected for an interview. If there is no interview, then the employer is prohibited from inquiring into the applicant’s criminal record or history until a conditional offer of employment has been extended. The only exceptions to this prohibition are for positions where federal or state law excludes applicants with certain criminal convictions, positions where a standard fidelity or equivalent bond is required (and specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant) and positions that require a license under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

The new Chicago ordinance goes even further than the Illinois Ban the Box Law in that, once a criminal background search is conducted, employers must take into account a series of factors before disqualifying an applicant for consideration for a position, such as the nature of the applicant’s specific criminal offense, when the offense took place, the severity of the offense and the relationship between the offense and the nature of the position being sought by the applicant.

Additionally, in the event that a Chicago employer makes the decision not to hire an applicant based, entirely or in part, on the applicant’s criminal record or history, the employer is required to inform the applicant of the specific basis for not being hired.

The Chicago Ban the Box ordinance, like its state counterpart, becomes effective for private employers on January 1, 2015. However, it became applicable to the City of Chicago and all of its “sister” agencies on November 5, 2014.

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