Ban the Box Update: Cook County, Illinois and Austin, Texas

Posted: August 14, 2015


Despite being in the typical legislative slowdown during the summer months, several local jurisdictions continue to remain active in proposing legislation that impacts private employers. In particular, Cook County, Illinois and Austin, Texas are both considering ban the box legislation that would impact the typical employer’s hiring process. Cook County, Illinois On July 29, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved Ordinance 15-4214, amending the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance to include ban the box language. Specifically, employers may not inquire into, consider or require disclosure of criminal history information until after the job applicant has been selected for an interview, or in the absence of an interview, has been extended a conditional offer of employment. If a decision is made to not hire a candidate based on the criminal history information, the employer must notify the candidate. There are several exceptions under the Ordinance, including positions for which a satisfactory criminal background check is an established bona fide occupational requirement and positions for which federal or state law require exclusion of individuals with certain criminal convictions. Further, the Ordinance does not apply to any employers regulated by the Illinois “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act”. The Ordinance from Cook County follows the passage of ban the box laws at the Illinois statewide level (referenced above) and in the City of Chicago. The Illinois statewide law applies to private companies with 15 or more employees, whereas Chicago’s Ordinance applies to any employer that is subject to license requirements in the Municipal Code or maintains a business facility within the City that has 1 or more employees. As noted above, employers not subject to the Illinois statewide law (essentially employers with 14 employees or less, and/or those who do not meet the law’s exemptions) will be subject to the new Cook County Ordinance. Austin, Texas On August 7, the City of Austin announced that it is “seeking public feedback on proposed policies that could potentially provide those with criminal histories a better chance to get a job.” This announcement follows the passage of Resolution No. 20150521-025 in May 2015 which directs the City Manager and staff to develop potential policies that would prevent criminal history inquiries by private employers until later in the hiring process. In addition, the release seeking public feedback is also seeking feedback on policies that would delay background checks until after the initial stages of a hiring decision. Impacted parties are encouraged to provide input on these potential policies to the Austin City Council by the end of August. As noted in the press release, the public can provide input at , by texting 512-643-JOBS (5627), or by email Text the word “hiring.” Subsequent policy options and a report are expected to be presented sometime in September.