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BAN THE BOX LAW

36 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “ban the box” so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications first-without the stigma of a conviction or arrest record. Borne out of the work of All of Us or None, these policies provide applicants a fair chance at employment by removing conviction and arrest history questions from job applications and delaying background checks until later in the hiring process.

Minnesota
Private employers in Minnesota are prohibited from asking criminal history questions on an initial job application. This measure is known as a “ban the box” law referring to the box on applications that candidates are asked to check off if they have been convicted of a crime.

Under the “ban the box” law, Minnesota employers will still be able to make criminal history inquiries either during a job interview or after a conditional offer has been made. Also, limited exemptions are provided for positions subject by state law to mandatory background checks, such as school bus drivers or jobs with the Department of Corrections.

Illinois Illinois law prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees in the current or preceding year and employment agencies from asking criminal history questions on job applications. Employers may still lawfully make criminal history inquiries after a candidate has been selected for an interview or, if there is not an interview, after a conditional employment offer has been made.

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act has limited exemptions, including for emergency medical positions or where an employer is required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law. State agencies already had been prohibited from including criminal history questions on initial job applications.

Employers should be aware that Chicago and Cook County have “ban the box” measures that go further than Illinois law.

Chicago Ban the Box
A Chicago city ordinance restricts private employers from asking criminal history questions on job applications. Chicago's ban the box law applies to private employers with less than 15 employees that are licensed in the city or have a business facility within city limits. This covers private employers that are exempt from the Illinois ban the box law, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

The Chicago ordinance bans criminal record questions until after a job applicant has been notified that he or she will be interviewed. If no interview is to take place, the employer may not ask about or consider the applicant's criminal record until a conditional job offer has been made. The ordinance also applies to city agencies.

All employers regardless of size must inform an applicant of the reason for withdrawing a conditional offer if they decide not to hire the person based in whole or in part on their criminal record. Violators of the ordinance face penalties ranging from $100 to $1,000 per offense. The ordinance's limited exceptions mirror the statewide ban the box law.

Cook County Ban the Box
Cook County’s ban the box ordinance mirrors Chicago’s law and also applies to private employers with less than 15 employees, essentially those left out of the Illinois statewide law.

As a result, Cook County employers may not ask criminal history questions until after a job applicant has been notified that he or she will be interviewed. If no interview is to take place, the employer may not ask about or consider the applicant's criminal record until a conditional job offer has been made, unless federal or state law specifically requires the exclusion of applicants with certain criminal convictions.

Sealed Records When making criminal history inquiries, employers should be aware that the following offenses are eligible to be sealed in Illinois if certain conditions are met:

  • Theft;
  • Retail theft;
  • Forgery;
  • Deceptive practices;
  • Possession of burglary tools;
  • Possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance;
  • Drug possession; and
  • Prostitution.

This law does provide some protections for employers. For instance, it requires a person to wait four years from the end of his or her last sentence before he or she may ask for his or her criminal record to be sealed. Also, the measure mandates that individuals pass a drug test within 30 days before filing a petition to seal.

Illinois law allows for nonviolent convictions to be cleared from a person’s record (i.e., expunged), provided that the individual has successfully completed at least two years of probation. However, employers may still question job applicants about criminal convictions (misdemeanor or felony) that have not been sealed or expunged.

North Dakota does not have a state ban the box law.

South Dakota does not have a state ban the box law.

Wisconsin does not have a state ban the box law. However, in Madison, contractors doing business with city on contracts work more than $25,000 bans criminal history questions, background check until conditional offer.

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