Effective January 1, 2015 in Illinois, the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act will prohibit most private-sector employers and employment agencies with 15 or more employees from asking applicants about their criminal histories and conducting criminal background checks until after applicants are deemed qualified for a job.

At the signing Governor Quinn stated, “Everyone deserves a second chance when it comes to getting a job. This law will help ensure that people across Illinois get a fair shot to reach their full potential through their skills and qualifications, rather than past history.”

Under the law, employers may not inquire about, consider, or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until he or she has been deemed qualified for a position and notified that he or she has been selected for an interview. If an interview is not part of the hiring process, the employer may not inquire into the applicant’s criminal record or criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment.

The Illinois Department of Labor can and will investigate any alleged violations and impose civil penalties ranging from a written warning, for a first violation, and up to $1,500 for a repeated violation or a failure to remedy an earlier violation. The law does not allow applicants themselves to sue.

There are some exceptions, including positions involving fidelity bonding, employers employing licensees under the Emergency Medical Systems Act, and employers that are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions because of federal or state law.

Illinois becomes one of approximately 12 states and cities (including Massachusetts, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) that have enacted “ban-the-box” laws that prohibit employers from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history on employment applications and during the selection process.


  • Covered employers must ensure that application forms and hiring processes do not inquire into a candidate’s criminal history until the applicant is selected for an interview by January 1, 2015.
  • If there is no interview, you must wait until a conditional offer of employment is made to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history.


We hope you found this information of value.

Please do not hesitate to contact Holman HR with any questions you may have.