SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois joined many other states this month in "banning the box" on job applications that ask about a person's criminal history. The new law went into effect on January 1 and prevents criminal background checks until after an applicant is deemed qualified for a job.
Michelle Rodriguez, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, says an estimated 70 million adults in the U.S. have an arrest or conviction record. She predicts the law should open doors for many in Illinois.
"That's a tremendous number of people that are walking around with potential barriers," Rodriguez says. "If folks can't get jobs that's going to be bad for all of our communities, for our economy, for public safety. It just really doesn't make sense."
The Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act does not apply to certain positions where employers must exclude applicants with criminal histories. The Illinois Department of Labor and Violations will be responsible for enforcement.
Rodriguez says local advocates have been working on the legislation for quite a while to ensure all Illinoisans have a chance to prove themselves when looking for work.
"This is actually something we see practically going viral at this point," says Rodriguez. "There are 13 states that have some type of "ban the box" fair-chance hiring laws in place and now they're getting close to 100 cities and counties across the country that have embraced this policy."
Illinois has had a ban-the-box policy for state government jobs in place since 2013, and becomes the fifth state to include private employers in fair-chance hiring policies.
Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - Illinois