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New Bill May Provide Opportunities for Job Seekers With Criminal Backgrounds

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criminal record, criminal history, Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, lawyer, attorneyCriminal histories have served as a significant barrier for past criminals looking for a new start. Currently, almost every standard employment application requires an applicant to list past criminal history, including convictions. No matter how long ago criminal acts were performed, those who truthfully respond to such questions typically have their applications thrown in the trash. However, the civil rights organizations in Illinois are hoping to change this. Under the proposed Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, also known as the Ban-the-Box bill, job employers would not be able to question an applicant about criminal history until later in the employment process, after an employment application has been submitted.

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act

House Bill 5701 (HB 5701) would prevent private employers in Illinois with 15 or more employees from questioning applicants about their criminal history on employment applications. In fact, if passed, HB 5701 would prevent employers from conducting background checks, and asking questions about criminal histories, until the interviewing process has actually begun. HB 5701 passed the Illinois State Senate by a 40-12 vote, and passed the Illinois House of Representatives in a 63-53 vote. Governor Quinn has already stated that he intends to sign the bill into law. If so, Illinois would become the fifth state to pass a Ban-the-Box bill.

After approval in both the House and Senate, HB 5701 was returned to the lower chamber in order to allow for approval for the amendments and changes that were made to the bill. Senate amendments were passed, which would exempt certain professions from compliance with HB 5701. Specifically exempt from HB 5701 are employees employed under the Emergency Medical Systems Act or the Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor and Locksmith Act. Construction contractors, fidelity bonding positions, and positions that disqualify applicants because of other federal or state laws were also exempt from HB 5701 compliance.

The Workers' Center for Racial Justice

The Workers' Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) is a Chicago civil rights organization that was extremely instrumental in making HB 5701 a reality. WCRJ has urged the private sector, as well as state, local, and federal governments, to remove the barriers facing formerly incarcerated African-Americans looking for gainful employment. Some of its many initiatives include pushing for the decriminalization of drug possession convictions and arrests for those found to have been in possession of small drug amounts. WCRJ is also looking to expand the number of expungements that a person can have removed from their criminal record. WCRJ has also spearheaded initiatives to extend job vouchers to previously incarcerated persons, and has called for the release of nonviolent offenders from prisons and jails. Click here to learn more about the WCRJ.

Do you need the professional assistance of a licensed criminal attorney? Contact the Plainfield criminal law attorneys at the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C.
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