Illinois Law A Boost to Ex-Offenders Seeking Jobs

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Illinois felons get some extra help in their efforts to find a job and not resort to breaking the law again to pay the bills.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law on Saturday requiring private employers in Illinois to first evaluate job applicants' skills then ask about criminal histories. The legislation makes Illinois the fifth state to bar private employers from requiring disclosure of a criminal history until an applicant is determined qualified for a position. Illinois already bars state agencies from asking about criminal histories on initial government job applications.

Steve Gunderson knows firsthand how hard it can be. He says he went on dozens of interviews to land a gig but kept getting turned down because of a felony conviction for retail theft from 2009. He’s been working at a metals manufacturing plant for the last two years. He says it can be frustrating to be denied over and over again when you're trying to turn your life around.

"You always have that in the back of your head, am I wasting my time or are they going to give me chance. You just have to keep up keep going,” says Steven Gunderson. “A sigh of relief knowing that I can provide for my family without having to struggle. It’s still hard but I have a job and I am very thankful for that," he adds.

Some construction jobs, emergency medical jobs and security jobs are exempt. The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act takes effect Jan. 1.

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