Chicago Bans the Box

The Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act went into effect on January 1, 2015.

The act prohibits any person or entity with more than 15 employees from inquiring about, considering, or requiring disclosure of a criminal record of an applicant until the applicant has been notified of selection for an interview, or until a conditional offer of employment has been made if no interview is conducted.

The City of Chicago passed ordinance 0201-8347 that expands the Illinois act within Chicago city limits.

The ordinance expands restrictions to private employers that are licensed in Chicago or maintain a business within the city limits that have fewer than 15 employees. Employers subject to the ordinance, just like those subject to the state law, may not inquire about, consider or require disclosure of the criminal record of an applicant until the applicant has been notified of selection for an interview, or until a conditional offer of employment has been made if no interview is conducted. The ordinance has broader reach than the state law because it requires employers, regardless of size, to notify applicants if they were not selected for employment on the basis of criminal history, whether entirely or partially.

The ordinance and the state law have limited exceptions:

  • When an employer is required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law;
  • When a fidelity bond or equivalent bond is required and an applicant's conviction or one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining a bond. In this case, an employer may include a question or otherwise inquire whether the applicant has ever been convicted of any of these offenses; or
  • Employers that employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.
Chicago's Commission on Human Relations has the authority to assess fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 for each offense, as well as, possible license discipline.