Ban the Box Here and Abroad: Illinois Says “Yes,” UK Next Up

Angela Preston

Ban the box Employment background checks

The governor of the State of Illinois has kept his promise to enact an administrative order, effectively “banning the box” for state workers.  On October 3, 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed an executive order providing that applicants with a criminal record will no longer be asked about their criminal past when they apply for state jobs.

The governor’s administrative order doesn’t apply to private employers, who will still be free to inquire about criminal history on job applications. But applications for state government jobs will no longer include a check box indicating whether an applicant has pled guilty, or been convicted of a criminal offense, other than a minor traffic violation. State agencies will still be allowed to conduct background checks, and request information on criminal convictions, but not until later in the process.

Quinn signed the executive order after ban the box proposals failed three times in the state legislature. Without state “ban-the-box” legislation, the next governor could rescind the administrative order. Quinn is up for re-election next year.

Chicago banned the box for city jobs and contractors in 2006. No one has researched or reported whether more ex-offenders have gotten city jobs since the 2006 law was enacted. Representatives from the Chicago labor organization The Worker’s Center for Racial Justice estimate that while the Chicago law has helped some people, the number is relatively small and many ex-offenders search for work outside the city limits.

The Illinois law follows a growing trend in the United States, with over 50 jurisdictions enacting some proposal to limit asking about criminal history during the job application stage of hiring. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) maintains a guide to jurisdictions across the US that have enacted differing ban the box laws.  The movement has also caught on in the UK, led by an organization called Business in the Community.

The bottom line:

  • Employers need to stay aware of this growing trend, which shows no sign of slowing down.
  • Employers have a right to ask about criminal history as part of the hiring process. At the same time, they need to be aware of the restrictions that exist in some jurisdictions.
  • Review your policies and make sure that use of a criminal record is job-related and consistent with business necessity, and allowed under local, state, and federal law.

Are you concerned about ban the box? I am interested to hear from employers about how this trend is affecting or has affected your company’s hiring process and use of criminal background checks. Post a comment below to share your thoughts on this issue.

Angela Preston
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Angela Preston

Vice President of Compliance & General Counsel at EmployeeScreenIQ
Angela Preston has more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and over 10 years in the background screening area. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), is a member of the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC), and is actively involved in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and ASIS International. Angela is also a member of the Ohio State and Columbus Bar Associations. Angela has direct oversight and management of compliance programs, and will provide guidance in complex legal matters including state and federal legislation, EEO law, client education, adjudication, pre/adverse action process, NAPBS Accreditation and client and vendor contract management.
Angela Preston
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  • Michael Belk

    That is a good idea. Every needs a second chance. Maybe this will help a lot of people.

  • Andrew

    I think that this is a great move by Governor Pat Quinn. Even though it just bans these kinds of checks in government positions early on in the application process, this is still good, as it will reduce the amount of discrimination happening based on criminal record alone. While criminal background checks are often needed and are often very helpful in the hiring process, employers need to be careful in how they use these techniques and not exclude potential hires automatically if they have something on their criminal record.