Cold Weather Be Darned: Illinois is Great for Employment Background Checks

Nick Fishman

Employment Background Checks in Illinois

I have a confession to make: I hate Chicago-style pizza and I don’t get Illinoisans fascination with it. I mean come on! It’s like a slab of concrete. And what’s with the sauce on top of the cheese? Really?

So maybe we don’t know pizza, but the state of Illinois has it going on when it comes to employment background checks. Unlike its border state Michigan, there are very few obstacles to conducting criminal background checks. There are no counties that mandate clerk research, and court access fees are few, inexpensive, and far between. So whether you’re in Chicago, Springfield, Aurora, Naperville, Waukegan, Peoria, Champagne–Urbana or Rockford–that equals lower background check costs and faster turnaround time for employers.

County Criminal Searches

There are 102 counties in the state and criminal records are available each county’s circuit court. It’s no surprise that the most frequently requested counties for research are the counties that encompass the Chicago-land area: Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, Will and McHenry.

While Illinois has a state repository for criminal records, individual counties are not mandated to report all convictions. There also isn’t a unified mandate for frequency of reporting among the counties. The repository has a vast number of arrest records and because there is no standard for reporting identifiers, confirming possible records can be time consuming and cumbersome. However, as with any other state, the best practice for background checks is to conduct research at the county level.

Illinois-Specific Sentencing Guidelines

Like every state, Illinois has some interesting sentencing guidelines. In addition to guilty or not guilty, judges have the option to impose “Supervision”. In essence, Supervision means that the person was found or pled guilty, however the judge will assign a fixed time period in which the individual must meet specific criteria. If the individual successfully completes their Supervision criteria, the conviction is wiped away. During this time and upon successful completion, employers cannot treat the record as a conviction.

Consumer Laws and Regulations

There are no pre-emptions to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, so everything is straight forward there–standard release forms and consumer notification responsibilities apply.  Background screening companies must have an Illinois private investigation license to perform work in the state.

Employment Credit Checks Restrictions

The state of Illinois does impose restrictions on employers’ ability to conduct credit checks on prospective employees, however, there are reasonable exemptions for those that really need this information. See below.

  • State or federal law requires bonding or other security covering an individual holding the position.
  • The duties of the position include custody of or unsupervised access to cash or marketable assets valued at $2,500 or more.
  • The duties of the position include signatory power over business assets of $100 or more per transaction.
  • The position is a managerial position which involves setting the direction or control of the business. (5) The position involves access to personal or confidential information, financial information, trade secrets, or State or national security information.
  • The position meets criteria in administrative rules, if any, that the U.S. Department of Labor or the Illinois Department of Labor has promulgated to establish the circumstances in which a credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement.
  • The employee’s or applicant’s credit history is otherwise required by or exempt under federal or State law.

And you want to talk about swift criminal justice? The last two Illinois governors are convicted felons. But don’t despair. The state still has its beloved 1985 Bears, Iron Mike Ditka, Da Bulls, the Chicawgo Blackhawks, Hot Dawgs and Brats and the perennial cellar-dweller Chicago Cubs. So employers, between this and employer-friendly background checks, what more could you ask for?



Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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