New Illinois Laws Remove Employment Barriers for People with Criminal Records

(Chicago) – Job seekers with past justice involvement have new opportunities for employment this year, thanks to a series of bills passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2016. These measures, which TASC supported, reduce or eliminate a number of employment barriers for individuals with past offenses.

These new measures include: restoring hiring discretion to employers by removing lifetime bans on jobs in schools and park districts; removing a similar ban on licensure to qualify for certain healthcare jobs; removing “red flags” on the State’s healthcare worker registry for jobs in the field that do not require licenses; and prohibiting professional licensure denials in seven specific occupations solely because the applicant has a criminal record unrelated to the occupation.

Together, these initiatives improve opportunities for people with prior justice involvement to work and earn income to support their families, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities.

“These laws help remove some of the lasting employment barriers that have hindered people long after they have paid their debt to society,” said Laura Brookes, TASC’s policy director. “We congratulate everyone who led and supported these measures.”

HB 4360, sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14) and State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-5), removes the lifetime ban on employment in schools for individuals with controlled substance convictions or misdemeanor cannabis, prostitution, or public indecency records, replacing the controlled substances ban with a seven-year waiting period. SB 3005, sponsored by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16) and Representative Cassidy, makes similar changes with regard to employment within local park districts. Further, the bill removes the permanent ban on park district jobs for people adjudicated for a drug offense as a juvenile.

SB 42 and HB 4515 remove barriers to jobs in healthcare for people with criminal records. SB 42 removes a lifetime ban on licenses for healthcare jobs from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) for individuals with certain offense records, replacing it with a three- or five-year ban instead, depending on circumstances. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Iris Martinez (D-20) and State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-78), enables IDFPR discretion to decide whether to grant a license in any particular case. Rep. Lilly and Senator Don Harmon (D-39) sponsored HB 4515, which changes the focus of the Health Care Worker’s Registry to an individual’s ability to work and not whether or not he or she has obtained a waiver, which in some cases has acted as a “red flag” hindering employment opportunities rather than opening them up. The law also removes misdemeanor cannabis crimes from the list of disqualifying offenses.

HB5973, sponsored by State Rep. Marcus Evans (D-33) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13), removes barriers to employment in barbering, cosmetology, esthetics, hair braiding, nail technology, roofing, and funeral service for people with criminal records.

Advocacy for the school, park district, and healthcare employment bills was driven by FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality), an initiative of the Community Renewal Society led by people with records and their families and faith communities to “create change and seek justice for people with records,” and RROCI (Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois), led by Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. The occupational licensure bill was a joint initiative of the Safer Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute.




To Combat Discrimination, Illinois Judges Can Now Seal Arrest, Trial Records of Persons Innocent, Acquitted of Criminal Charges

(Chicago, IL) – Discrimination can haunt even the innocent. Job seekers who have been arrested for a felony crime, but found innocent still face discrimination when seeking employment and housing because the original arrest record has been required to be a public record.

Until now.

Thanks to new, bi-partisan legislation, House Bill 298, sponsored by State Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) and approved by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois judges now have the discretion to seal felony arrest and trial records that ended in either dismissal or acquittal of charges or reversal of a conviction.

“Denying a job or an apartment to an innocent person is discrimination,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).  “This law will help advance social justice in both employment and housing.”

Rodriguez also praised the law’s sponsors and the Governor.

“Representative Howard, Senator Lightford,  the bill’s co-sponsors, and Governor Quinn have rendered a public service to those who face employment and housing discrimination,” said Rodriguez.

In addition to Howard, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Marlow Colvin (D), Robyn Gabel (D), Al Riley (D), Lisa Dugan (D), Patrick Verschoore (D) Camille Lilly (D), Arthur Turner (D), La Shawn Ford (D), Rita Mayfield (D), Patricia Bellock (R), and Derrick Smith (D).

In addition to Lightford, Senate sponsors included State Senators Jacqueline Collins (D) Mattie Hunter (D), Thomas Johnson (R), Kwame Raoul (D), Iris Martinez (D), Donne Trotter (D), Toi Hutchinson (D) and Emil Jones, III (D).

The new law reflects one of the 10 key recommendations made by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statewide, bipartisan group established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups. The Commission’s final report, released to the Illinois legislature in December 2010, recommended that the State prohibit the inclusion of drug-related arrests that do not result in conviction in criminal histories collected for employment-related purposes.

The law, signed by Quinn on August 19, is effective immediately.

TASC, Inc. has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and providing alternatives to incarceration in Illinois. TASC’s Racial Justice Initiative, including dissemination of the findings of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, has received generous support from The Chicago Community Trust.