Chicago Amends “Ban the Box” Ordinance 

Over the past decade, Chicago has placed restrictions on employers when they consider the criminal history of job applicants. These measures have been called “ban-the-box” ordinances. Chicago’s ordinance mirrored statewide requirements under the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (JOQAA). On April 24, 2023, the City of Chicago passed substantial amendments to the ban-the-box ordinance, which is set to take effect immediately.

The purpose of the legislation is to prevent recidivism by giving those with criminal histories a better opportunity to find gainful employment and keep themselves out of trouble. 

Prior Ban-the-Box Restrictions

Chicago’s ban-the-box restrictions mirror the statewide law but with three important differences. The Chicago rules expand the scope of the JOQAA. While the statewide law only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, the Chicago ordinance applies to employers of any size. Employers are also required to inform applicants of the basis for rejection if the decision is based even partially on the applicant’s criminal history. Lastly, Chicago’s ordinance has more severe penalties for Chicago employers who violate the ban-the-box ordinance, which includes fines of up to $1,000 per violation.

New Ban-the-Box Restrictions

Chicago’s new ban-the-box restrictions require Chicago employers to perform an individual assessment of an applicant to determine whether or not the potential employee represents a threat to the business based on their criminal history. Under the new rules, an employer may only deny employment based on criminal history if:

  • There is a substantial relationship between the criminal history of the applicant and the job they are applying for
  • The employer believes that the applicant poses a considerable risk to the business’s property, the safety of the company’s workforce, or the safety of the public.

Employers are required to perform individual assessments of prospective applicants, including a determination of mitigating factors that could potentially make the employee a good fit for the company. Mitigating factors include:

  • Length of time since the conviction
  • The number of convictions
  • Nature and severity of the conviction and whether it indicates a security risk
  • The age of the prospective employee at the time of conviction
  • Evidence related to rehabilitation efforts

The Chicago ordinance also requires that employers provide a “pre-adverse action notice” and a “final adverse action notice” to any individual who is denied employment on the basis of their criminal history. This includes information related to whether or not the applicant’s history comes from a background report, the applicant, or both. The new Chicago ordinance will further require employers to include the specific reasoning for the disqualification within the pre-adverse action notice and final adverse action notice. It also requires employers to state within the final adverse action notice that the individual has a right to file a charge within the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. 

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

David Freidberg represents the interests of Chicago residents who have been charged with serious crimes. Call our office today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your defense options immediately. 

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