Now that Illinois has the most generous sealing law on the books, fewer individuals remain unable to seal their misdemeanor or felony convictions (or sentences for supervision).
The remedies described below do not remove your conviction from the public record. However, they can be helpful in showing a prospective employer or licensing board that you have been rehabilitated since committing the crime.
Certificate of Relief from Disabilities
This certificate was created to help individuals who have felony convictions and want to work in fields that require them to obtain occupational or professional business licenses (e.g., barber, real estate broker, CPA) from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Given the current sealing laws, few individuals will need to obtain a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
The certificate covers only a fraction of the more than 200 occupational and professional licenses issued by the IDFPR. For a list of the licensing laws covered by the certificate, download this file.
Obtaining this certificate is not a guarantee that the IDFPR will grant you a professional or occupational license. However, submitting this certificate along with your license application will be helpful support.
Individuals who have been convicted of aggravated DUI, domestic battery, arson and kidnapping (aggravated and non-aggravated), and any conviction requiring registration as a sex offender, are not eligible to apply for this certificate. There are different waiting periods, depending on whether your underlying offense is a felony or a misdemeanor.
As with petitions to expunge and seal, a judge exercises sole discretion as to whether to grant you a certificate. Because the certificate is proof of your rehabilitation, a hearing is always held, at which evidence is presented for and against your petition.
Certificate of Good Conduct
The same eligibility guidelines and procedures, outlined above, apply to obtaining a Certificate of Good Conduct as to obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
The primary benefit of obtaining a Certificate of Good Conduct is that it can set aside most statutory barriers to employment based on someone having conviction record.
Unlike the Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, the expanded sealing laws have not eliminated the need to obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct in the case where someone is facing a statutory barrier to employment. For example, an Illinois school district is prohibited from hiring individuals who have been convicted of certain drug offenses, without regard to whether the record has been sealed. If the individual obtains a Certificate of Good Conduct, expressly waiving the statutory barrier, a school district now has the ability to hire him or her without violating state law. That said the decision to hire still rests with the employer.
Aside from setting aside statutory barriers to employment, there is anecdotal evidence that a Certificate of Good Conduct may be helpful in assisting someone who is applying for a professional or occupational license or certificate (from a licensing authority other than the IDFPR) that he/she otherwise would be ineligible to receive based on state law exclusions for certain criminal offenses.
Because a Certificate of Good Conduct is still a relatively new remedy, only a handful of employers are aware of its benefits. You may need the assistance of an attorney to help educate an employer about the legal benefits of having a Certificate of Good Conduct.
Health Care Worker Waiver
If you want to work in health care (e.g., hospital, nursing home, rehab center) and have certain felony or misdemeanor convictions on your record, you must apply for and obtain a Health Care Worker Waiver from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). On its website, the IDPH maintains a Health Care Worker Registry that informs employers, as well as the public, if someone is eligible to work in health care.
Prior to 2017, the registry specified whether an individual had a Health Care Worker Waiver, thus tipping off a prospective employer that a job applicant had a criminal history. In 2016, the Illinois General Assembly amended the law to omit this information from the registry. Now, the Health Care Worker Registry only notifies the public whether a person is eligible to work in health care. The registry no longer discloses who has received a waiver.
A Health Care Worker Waiver applies to any employee whose job provides access to patients; the waiver is not limited to employees whose job entails direct patient care (e.g., CNA, LPN).
A health care provider cannot hire someone who has a waiveable conviction history and has not obtained a Health Care Worker Waiver. Even if someone has been granted a license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, if that individual is later convicted of a crime covered by the Health Care Worker Waiver, the applicant will have to obtain a waiver as a precondition for being hired by a health care provider.
In addition, a health care provider cannot hire someone who has been convicted of a non-waiveable felony offense (e.g., armed robbery, criminal abuse of an elderly or disabled person, child pornography) unless the applicants have been granted clemency by the governor for those crimes.
While a Health Care Worker Waiver ordinarily is not difficult to obtain for past criminal history, the IDPH is much less tolerant when the criminal conduct is recent. Especially, when the person applying for the waiver is currently employed in health care.