Recently Governor Pat Quinn signed into law two bills that could impact small business owners.
House Bill 5701, commonly known as ban-the-box bill, will require employers with more than 15 employees to remove from job applications the question of whether or not the applicant has been convicted of a crime
Proponents of banning the box, a reference to the box on job applications prospective employees are asked to check if they've been convicted of a crime, have argued many qualified job seekers don’t get through the initial application process to interview because employers simply disregard them if they have a criminal history. In some cases, they say, the crime may have been committed decades earlier but they are still required to check the box.
The new law, which was significantly altered during the legislative process to take into account the concerns of the business community, will allow employers to continue to do background checks on applicants and ask in interviews about criminal history but not pose the question on an application.
Other exemptions to the law include employers who are already prohibited by state or federal law from hiring someone with a criminal history; and, an employer may notify applicants up front if specific criminal offenses will disqualify them from employment due to the employer’s own policy.
For instance, if a retailer has a strict policy that it does not hire anyone who has been convicted of retail theft in the last 5 years they may notify all applicants of this policy.
The other bill that will impact small businesses has to do with how female employees are treated while pregnant.
HB 8 adds pregnancy as a protected class under the Illinois Human Rights Act, extending additional benefits to include all medical and “common” conditions related to pregnancy and child birth. Employers will now have to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for their pregnant employees unless the accommodation causes an “undue hardship.”
Of course this will open businesses to increased litigation if they fail to provide a “reasonable accommodation.”
The new law could also push small businesses under 50 employees to now provide leave in order to meet the definition of “reasonable accommodation” for “time off to recover from childbirth; and leave.” Under current state and federal law, small employers under 50 employees are not required to provide any type of leave.