Tag Archives: criminal convictions in employment decisions

State Survey – Considering Criminal Convictions in Private Employment Decisions

Contributed By Suzanne Newcomb, April 22, 2021

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As we previously discussed, Illinois has moved beyond “ban-the-box” and now significantly restricts employers’ ability to consider criminal convictions when making employment decisions. (For more details see our employer’s guide and join our complimentary webcast on April 29, 2021.)

Illinois is not an outlier. Several states have enacted or are considering similar legislation. Below is a short summary of these state laws applicable to private employers. All of these statutes have exceptions. Note too, the fact that a state is not listed does not necessarily mean it has no restrictions. These laws are nuanced and rapidly changing and many local governments have enacted their own regulations. Seek advice from trusted counsel before basing an employment decision on an individual’s criminal history.

California: Employers with 5 or more employees may not deny a position based (in whole or in part) on a criminal conviction without first making an individualized assessment (in accordance with the statute) as to whether the conviction has a direct and adverse relationship to the job such that it justifies denying the position. The law sets forth a detailed process to regulate an employer’s consideration of criminal convictions and imposes notice, disclosure, and waiting period requirements if an employer acts on a conviction.

Connecticut: It is currently unlawful to deny employment with the state on the basis of a criminal conviction without considering factors set forth in the statute. Pending legislation would expand the law to private employers.

Hawaii: It is unlawful to base an employment decision on a conviction unless it is a felony conviction in the last 7 years, or a misdemeanor conviction in the last 5 years, and the conviction bears a “rational relationship” to the duties of the position. 

New York: It is unlawful to take an adverse action based on criminal history unless there is a direct relationship between the conviction and the employment position or if the employment would pose an unreasonable risk. The statute includes factors to be considered in making this assessment. Upon request, the employer must provide a written statement setting forth the reasons for denying employment on the basis of conviction. 

Pennsylvania: It is unlawful to consider a job applicant’s conviction history unless the conviction relates to the applicant’s suitability for the particular position sought. An employer also must notify the applicant if employment was denied, in whole or in part, on the basis of criminal history.

Washington D.C.: Private employers with more than 10 employees may not base employment decisions on criminal convictions unless there are reasonable and legitimate business reasons in accordance with factors set forth in the statute.

Wisconsin: It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of an arrest record or conviction record. There are exceptions to this rule for convictions and pending criminal charges that substantially relate to the particular job.

In addition, ban-the-box laws apply to private employers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C., as well as many other cities and counties across the country (and a total of 36 states have some form of ban-the-box laws applicable to public employment). Many state and local governments also prohibit or regulate employers’ consideration of convictions that have been sealed or expunged, arrests that did not result in conviction, and/or juvenile convictions.

Save the Date! Complimentary Webcast April 29: NEW Illinois Law Prohibiting Use of Criminal Convictions: An Employer’s Guide

Effective March 23, 2021, new Illinois law generally prohibits the use of criminal convictions in employment decisions and creates additional new hurdles for employers who decide to rely on any conviction for employment purposes-unless otherwise authorized by law. Join Jeff Risch and Allison Sues on Thursday, April 29 @ noon CT for a timely discussion surrounding the new law. During this webcast attendees will learn:

  • How to navigate new hiring mandates
  • What to include in the mandated written notices to a denied applicant or terminated employee because of a conviction record
  • How to reconcile the new IL law with existing local, state and federal mandates (i.e. FFCRA, Ban the Box, etc…)
  • How to analyze whether a specific conviction history has a substantial relationship to a certain job position or poses a unreasonable risk to property or safety
  • What does “unless otherwise authorized by law” really mean for employers

NEW ILLINOIS LAW PROHIBITS USE OF CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS: Guide for Employers and Sample Forms

Contributed by Jeff A. Risch and Allison P. Sues, March 24, 2021

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As we previously blogged about, the Illinois legislature passed Senate Bill 1480, which, in relevant part, provides that unless otherwise authorized by law, an employer may only consider an individual’s criminal conviction history if there is a substantial relationship between the criminal history and the position sought or held, or if the employer can show that the individual’s employment raises an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public. Governor Pritzker has now signed the bill into law – which went into effect immediately. SmithAmundsen LLC’s Labor & Employment Group has been intimately involved in the tracking of this legislation and continues to voice concerns on behalf of employers. With that in mind, our firm has created an EMPLOYER’S GUIDE to help employers not only navigate the new mandates, but also includes sample forms  that may prove useful to employers at this critical time.

While this law would not restrict employers from running criminal background checks on applicants or employees, it clearly creates many unique challenges. Undoubtedly, Illinois’ new law is the most restrictive and cumbersome in the country.

Illinois Set to Enact New Law Limiting Criminal Convictions in Employment Decisions

Contributed by Allison P. Sues and Jeff Risch, February 15, 2021

Illinois has long limited employers from considering the criminal history of an applicant or employee in making employment decisions. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from considering an employee’s arrest history, for example. In recent years, Illinois’ “Ban the Box” law disallows employers from asking about criminal convictions prior to a job offer or before a candidate is selected for an interview and, therefore, assumed to be otherwise qualified for the position in question. Now, Illinois is poised to go a step further in banning the use of criminal history in employment decisions. 

In January 2021, the Illinois legislature passed Senate Bill 1480, which, in relevant part, provides that unless otherwise authorized by law, an employer may only consider an individual’s criminal conviction history if there is a substantial relationship between the criminal history and the position sought or held, or if the employer can show that the individual’s employment raises an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public. Governor Pritzker now has this legislation “on his desk” and is expected to sign this bill into law soon. Upon signing this legislation, the law will go into effect immediately. The law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act.

An employer may show that an individual’s criminal conviction history has a substantial relationship to the position applied for, or currently held, if the position provides an opportunity for the individual to conduct the same or similar offenses.  Six different factors guide this analysis: (1) the length of time since the conviction, (2) the number of convictions that appear on the conviction record, (3) the nature and severity of the conviction and its relationship to the safety and security of others, (4) the facts or circumstances surrounding the conviction, (5) the age of the employee at the time of the conviction, and (6) evidence of rehabilitation efforts. 

As to the phrase “unreasonable risk,” it is not defined. However, this phrase certainly places the burden on the employer to establish that a risk exists that no reasonable employer in similar circumstances should incur.

If an employer denies employment to an applicant because of a conviction record, the employer must provide written notice to the applicant that specifically identifies the relevant conviction record underlying the decision and the employer’s rationale for why the conviction disqualifies the individual from employment. The employer must then give the applicant at least five (5) business days to respond to the employer’s notice and provide evidence to refute the employer’s concern. If the employer still decides not to hire the individual, the employer must provide another written notice informing the candidate of their right to file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. This same process must be used for employers taking adverse action against existing employees based on criminal convictions.

While this law would not restrict employers from running criminal background checks on applicants or employees, it clearly creates additional hurdles. In reviewing the laws created in other states, Illinois’ new law would be the most restrictive in the country.  Employers must not only justify any actions taken based on a criminal conviction under the Act’s two exceptions, but must also comply with the written notification requirements. 

Be assured that SmithAmundsen LLC’s Labor & Employment Group is working with business groups to try and create better and clearer language relating to this legislation. We are intimately familiar with that process, and will report as soon as we learn more. In the meantime, all employers hiring or operating in Illinois must tread carefully in navigating all aspects of conducting a criminal background check.