Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On March 23, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed “The Employee Background Fairness Act” (Senate Bill 1480) into law to add a new section to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) that will impact employers under the state’s “Ban the Box” law and prevent them from discriminating against job applicants with criminal records.
Senate Bill 1480 (SB 1480) extends protections outlined in the IHRA to any Illinois resident with a conviction record. Under this new law, Illinois employers can no longer disqualify a job applicant or employee with a conviction record unless there is a “substantial relationship” to the job. The legislation took effect immediately.
Illinois currently has measures in place to protect ex-offenders including barring discrimination based on arrest records and inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history until later stages of the application process. SB 1480 adds another layer of protection for anyone who has come into contact with public law enforcement.
Any person who believes they are experiencing discrimination at work or with a potential job because of their conviction record can now file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). To assist Illinois employers and jobseekers, the IDHR has developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
“The IDHR is proud to have supported this fundamental, long-overdue piece of legislation,” IDHR Director Jim Bennett stated in a news release on the Governor’s website. “Today’s SB 1480 signing is a major step in ensuring anyone – no matter their past – is treated with dignity and respect when searching for work in Illinois.”
In January 2021, the Illinois legislature passed SB 1480 to make using criminal records in employment decisions a civil rights violation unless there is a “substantial relationship” between the record and job or an “unreasonable risk” to property or the safety of individuals or the general public. Employers must now consider these factors:
- The length of time since the conviction;
- The number of convictions that appear on the conviction record;
- The nature and severity of the conviction and its relationship to the safety and security of others;
- The facts or circumstances surrounding the conviction;
- The age of the employee at the time of the conviction; and
- Evidence of rehabilitation efforts.
SB 1480 would require an employer wanting to apply one of the two exceptions to notify employees or applicants in writing with a copy of the conviction report and give them five days to submit information to convince the employer not to take the adverse action. The employer can make a final decision only after the five-day window.
If proceeding with adverse action, SB 1480 would require the employer to issue the employee or applicant another notice that explains the basis for the decision, advise them of any internal procedures for requesting reconsideration, and notify them of their right to file a charge of discrimination with the IDHR.
Illinois was one of the first states to enact a Ban the Box law. In January 2015, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (HB 5701) took effect after being signed by Governor Pat Quinn to help ex-offenders find work in the private sector by preventing criminal background checks until after an applicant is deemed qualified for a job.
Ban the Box legislation started in 1998 with Hawaii being the first state to pass a law restricting employers from asking about a job candidate’s criminal record prior to a job offer. Since then, legislation has been enacted in 36 states and more than 150 municipalities, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Ban the Box laws and second chance programs that help allow ex-offenders with a prior criminal record an opportunity to find work will continue to evolve, according to leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021.
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was ranked the #1 screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” an “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.
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