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Illinois law follows the “ban the box” rule. Employers are unable to perform background checks until well into the interview process. If an applicant for an opening is a sex offender, the employer would not be able to discover that information until the employer made a conditional job offer to the prospective hire

Illinois law follows the “ban the box” rule. Employers are unable to perform background checks until well into the interview process. If an applicant for an opening is a sex offender, the employer would not be able to discover that information until the employer made a conditional job offer to the prospective hire.  

This article will review the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act. This Illinois statute requires the state police to maintain a sex offender database and background checks in the hiring process.

What is the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act?

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act was passed in January of 2015 by the Illinois General Assembly to give Illinois employers access “to the broadest pool of qualified applicants possible, protect the civil rights of those seeking employment, and ensure that all qualified applicants are properly considered for employment opportunities and are not pre-screened or denied an employment opportunity unnecessarily or unjustly.”  For more information on other employee protections read our article one Illinois Employment Discrimination Laws Explained.

Can a Potential Employer Run a Background Check Before I am Hired?

The Illinois law strictly forbids an employer from performing a background check before an offer of employment. A criminal background check is how an employer would discover that a potential applicant is listed on the sex offender website. However, the mere presence of a potential applicant’s name on the sex offender website does not cause to deny employment.  

In fact, under Megan’s Law, the federal database, a person cannot be denied health insurance, insurance, loans, credit, employment, education, scholarship, fellowship, housing or accommodation, or benefits and privileges as anyone else.  

What Information is provided on a Background Check?

Employers use background checks when hiring to confirm that the employee is a good fit for employment and verify information provided to them.   Background checks provide employers with the following information:  

- list and confirm a professional history  

- education credentials  

- reference checks  

- criminal background check  

- credit history  

- social media and internet check  

- confirms an applicant’s identity  

Can an employer deny employment based upon the sex offender classification?  

Probably not. Unless the employer is a government agency, public housing authority, adoption agency, financial institution, community care facility, or child care center, there is probably no reason to deny employment. However, the employer does have to weigh the safety of his other employees and the safe work environment and claim negligent hiring or retention that his other employees could make.  

A person who is a registered sex offender could have committed an extensive range of offenses. Some of these “sex crimes” may or may not affect their ability to perform the job that an employer is attempting to fill. The Illinois State Police maintains the sex offender website, which offers the public access to information regarding sex offenders living in their neighborhoods.  

There are no Federal laws that specifically address the hiring of a sex offender. Still, they are not mandated to inform potential employers. It is the sex offender’s responsibility to register as a sex offender.

An employer should consider the applicant and whether or not their classification as a sex offender somehow disqualifies them from the offered job. Will they be working with a protected class of individuals? Will the employee come into contact with the public? Does the employee have to travel? Suppose the potential applicant is qualified for the job and is willing to disclose the information regarding the underlying sex offense. In that case, an employer should at least consider making an offer of employment.

For help figuring out your rights as an employee or an employer, contact O'Flaherty Law and one of our experienced Illinois employment law attorneys. You can give us a call at (630)-324-6666 or fill out our confidential contact form today.

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