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New 2017 Illinois Employment Law Gives Ex-Offenders Opportunities

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New legislation recently took effect allowing certain ex-offenders to work in state institutions like schools and park districts a certain amount of years after their conviction and jail terms. Like many other laws taking effect this year, the law is a significant and progressive move designed at strengthening the power workers have to help provide for themselves and their families during difficult economic times.

Furthermore, allowing certain types of ex-offenders into the state workforce can help to break up the cycle of poverty and recidivism plaguing men and women who have otherwise served their debt to society. Ex-offenders are especially at risk for many of the pitfalls any person can be susceptible of in a volatile economy and should be given an opportunity to re-enter society and be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Other new laws taking effect this year also allow ex-felons to apply for state licensing to work in various industries their criminal record would otherwise have denied. Some of the 118 occupations for which ex-felons can now apply for licensure include cosmetology, hair and nail care, roofing, and funeral services.

Can my employer check my criminal background in Illinois?

While allowing ex-offenders to apply for state jobs and licensures is a huge step towards rebuilding lives and communities, Illinois also bars private employers from looking into the criminal backgrounds of applicants deemed qualified to perform the job. Under the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (JOQAA), employers and employment agencies cannot ask qualified applicants about their criminal background until a conditional offer is extended.

Individuals should also know there are exceptions to the JOQAA, which can still bar felons from gaining employment with certain organizations. The three categories of job applicants which can still be denied employment due to criminal backgrounds include:

  • State and federal jobs requiring background checks by law;
  • Companies employing workers under the Illinois Emergency Medical Systems Act; and
  • Jobs needing a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond.

To help protect workers, the Illinois Department of Labor enforces the law and may impose penalties on organizations violating the law. Furthermore, employees who feel they may have been illegally discriminated against due to their criminal background may also discuss their case with an experienced Illinois employment lawyer to recover compensation, if available, under various state laws.

Reach out to us today for help

Contact our office to speak to one of the qualified Illinois employment lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich. Our office serves clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County, and McHenry County.