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Illinois Background Checks: A Complete Guide [2023]

illinois employment background check

Any Illinois company that is either in the process of recruiting and hiring new employees or thinking of doing so should also be planning on how they will run background checks on prospective new hires.

Conducting an effective and compliant Illinois background check should be the culmination of your company’s hiring process instead of simply an afterthought.

Whether your company operates in a regulated industry in which employee background checks are required by law or not, the information gleaned from a comprehensive background check is extremely valuable.

Use this comprehensive state guide to learn more about the process of conducting background checks in Illinois.

Let’s start now.

What Shows Up on an Illinois Background Check?

A background check report includes critical information about a job applicant, including their professional history, criminal records and education credentials.

With the background check customization options available from iprospectcheck, you can tailor each employee background investigation to include the information that is most relevant to your company.

1. Past Employment Experience

A thorough background check report will confirm the dates and places of an applicant’s work history, which allows you to verify that your prospective employee has the requisite experience and professional background to perform their potential job duties.

2. Criminal History

A complete background check will reveal whether a candidate has a potentially disqualifying criminal history or is listed on any offender registries.

3. Education and Professional Credentials Verification

Make sure that your new hire has actually earned the degrees and credentials that they listed on their application and may be required for their new job.

An education verification will verify with the applicable educational institutes and any certifying organizations that the candidate earned their listed degrees or credentials.

4. Identity Verification

A basic function of a background check is to confirm an applicant’s identity, including their primary address.

This can help you verify that you have not been defrauded by an applicant.

5. Credit Checks

Pursuant to the Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act, Illinois employers are prohibited from using a candidate’s consumer credit information as a factor in hiring decisions, but there are exceptions for management positions, jobs that require unsupervised access to assets in excess of $2,500 and jobs involving confidential company information or trade secrets.

6. Social Media Checks

Many Illinois employers choose to investigate an applicant’s social media presence.

While this is permissible, you are not allowed to request that an applicant provide their username and password to access their social media accounts.

This is why experienced and resourceful background check agencies like iprospectcheck are so valuable in the investigation process.

We have finely tuned social media search capabilities to uncover significant information, which would not otherwise be readily available from simple searching, about an applicant.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Illinois?

The FCRA limits reporting on any criminal arrests that failed to result in a conviction that occurred more than seven years ago.

If the candidate is being considered for a position that pays a salary of at least $75,000 this time restriction does not apply.

However, each state is permitted to enact its own time limitations on how far back employee background checks can go without adhering to the FCRA’s time limitations.

Under Illinois law, there is no time restriction on how far back a background check may go in terms of identifying any criminal convictions.

However, before using any negative criminal history to disqualify an applicant, you should be sure that the information is germane to the position and is not being used to discriminate against any candidate.

How Long Do Background Checks Take in Illinois?

One of the drawbacks of ordering a background check report from an unverified or inexperienced company is that it may take very long to receive the results, which also may not be accurate or comprehensive.

This can stifle the hiring process and may even cause you to lose out on qualified candidates if they have other job offers in the works.

Fortunately, iprospectcheck offers rapid turnaround time on Illinois background checks, which means you can receive the report within just one to two days.

The ability to expedite our background check services helps Illinois employers like you to expedite and streamline the hiring process without sacrificing accuracy or completeness.

How Can I Check My Criminal Record in Illinois?

You can obtain a copy of your own criminal record in Illinois by sending a written request to the Illinois State Police, Division of Administration.

Criminal history checks can be performed based on an individual’s name or by fingerprints. The cost for this service is currently $20.

How Much Do Background Checks in Illinois Cost?

While some websites purport to offer free background checks in Illinois, the information and reports available from these sites are often incomplete, inaccurate, outdated, inapplicable and non-compliant with state and federal laws.

Free background check sites for Illinois also fail to offer any customer support or customization options for Illinois employers, which makes the reports that they generate even more unreliable.

Some Illinois employers make the mistake of tasking their HR representative with checking county and/or state court websites to verify the criminal history of a job candidate.

This is a flawed approach to screening for criminal history because many offenses can easily slip through the cracks in local court websites.

It can be extremely time-consuming to comb through records for each individual jurisdiction where a job candidate lived, and this is not necessarily a guarantee that you have accessed the candidate’s full criminal history.

For example, a prospective employee may have been charged and convicted of a serious crime outside of a jurisdiction where they have resided.

Given the serious consequences that employers can face for failing to comply with Illinois and federal background check requirements, working with an affordable, reliable and proven third-party service provider, such as iprospectcheck, is the prudent option for Illinois businesses.

With iprospectcheck, you can select the specific background screening reports that are applicable to your business so that you do not pay for any reports that you will not use. Also, at iprospectcheck, we offer significant value discounts for ordering a higher volume of background check reports.

Most importantly, when you work with a verified and cost-effective background check service provider like iprospectcheck, you can be sure that you are receiving the most comprehensive and current report on an applicant’s criminal history.

We have the resources, experience, and specialized knowledge to ensure that the Illinois background check reports that we generate are legally compliant and factually accurate.

As such, you will have all the tools at your fingertips to make the most informed hiring decisions for your Illinois business.

What Will Disqualify You from an Illinois Background Check?

In Illinois, there are certain types of businesses and job positions for which an applicant can be immediately disqualified if they have certain criminal convictions.

For example, non-licensed health care workers who care directly for patients and any workers who have contact with students are required to be screened for criminal convictions.

Your Illinois company may enact a policy that lists criminal offenses that would disqualify an applicant from employment with your company.

To disqualify a job applicant based on this hiring policy, you should be sure to provide written notice of the policy to the applicant in advance and apply the policy equally to all applicants.

Any discrimination in the application of a hiring policy to disqualify various candidates from hiring could open you up to claims under state and/or federal law, including the FCRA and the EEOC.

Illinois Background Check Laws 2023

Your Illinois company is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations on how you may conduct employee background checks and how the information obtained in the reports may be used in your hiring decisions.

The laws and requirements for employee background checks vary by state, which is why Illinois companies should be aware of the state-specific employee screening regulations.

Federal Laws on Employment Background Checks

1. The Fair Credit Reporting Act

In addition to the Illinois state laws that apply to employee background checks, your Illinois company must also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

One of the most important requirements of the FCRA regarding employee background checks is that you must provide the employee with notice in advance of your intent to conduct a background check if you will be using a third-party provider to conduct the background check.

If a job candidate declines to consent to a background check as part of your company’s hiring process, you have the option to consider their employment application as withdrawn.

2. Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and is the landmark legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination based on the protected statuses of employees and job applicants in all states, including Illinois.

This law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that also promulgates regulations under it.

Title VII’s provisions and regulations cover criminal history information that might be found on Illinois pre-employment background checks.

The EEOC has issued guidance for employers on how they should treat arrest and criminal conviction information found on background checks.

According to the EEOC, criminal history information that is reported on Illinois pre-employment background checks should be assessed on a case-by-case basis as it relates to the specific position for which the applicant is being considered before deciding against hiring him or her based on that type of information.

Illinois State Laws on Employment Background Checks

1. The Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act

In 2014, Illinois passed a “ban-the-box law” to limit an employer’s access to an applicant’s criminal background until late in the application process.

This law applies to your Illinois business if you employ 15 or more employees. Your Illinois business may be exempt from this requirement if you are required by law to exclude job applicants who have certain criminal convictions on their record.

According to the Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, an employer may not perform a background check of a job candidate’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made to the prospective new hire or the candidate has been determined as qualified for the position with an interview already scheduled.

Also, an Illinois employer may not ask an applicant about arrests for offenses that the applicant was not convicted of or any expunged or sealed criminal records.

Along those same lines, you are not permitted to take arrests without a conviction or records that were expunged or sealed into account when making any hiring decisions about a candidate.

The Illinois Department of Labor has the authority to investigate any complaints against Illinois employers who are alleged to have violated this law.

Violators are subject to civil fines for each offense or their continued failure to correct the initial violation.

2. Illinois SB 1480

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1480 on March 23, 2021. This law amended the Illinois Human Rights Act by adding section 103.1.

This law was immediately effective and placed restrictions on the use of conviction records when employers make employment decisions.

Under this new law, employers cannot use convictions to make hiring decisions unless a substantial relationship exists between the conviction and the job or when hiring the person would create an unreasonable risk to the safety of the workplace or property.

Employers must consider the following six factors when determining whether there is a substantial relationship between the conviction and the job:

  • How long ago the conviction occurred
  • How many convictions the person has
  • The severity and nature of the conviction and how it relates to the safety of others
  • The facts and circumstances of the conviction
  • How old the applicant was when the conviction happened
  • Any efforts made to rehabilitate

If the employer determines there is a substantial relationship between the conviction and the job, the employer must then go through an adverse action procedure that is similar to what is required under the FCRA.

The law does include a clause indicating that employers that are required by law to disqualify applicants based on certain types of convictions are excluded.

For example, certain employers in healthcare should consider disqualifying offenses under the Illinois Health Care Worker Background Check Act.

3. Employee Background Fairness Act

On March 23, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3056 into law, which is known as the Employee Background Fairness Act (EBFA).

This law limits the ability of employers to disqualify applicants based on their convictions unless specific exceptions apply and the employer completes the required process.

Under the EBFA, employers can’t rely on applicants’ convictions to make employment decisions unless a substantial relationship exists between the conviction and the duties of the position or when hiring the applicants would create an unreasonable safety risk to other employees, customers, or property.

Under the law, employers must follow a similar process as what they must do under EEOC guidance and individually assess convictions as they relate to the job.

Employers must consider the following factors before they decide to take an adverse employment action:

  • Age of the conviction
  • Number of convictions
  • Severity and nature of the conviction
  • How old the applicant was at the time of the conviction
  • Facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction

Suppose you still don’t want to hire the applicant after considering factors in mitigation.

In that case, you must then notify the applicant that the conviction is the reason for the applicant’s disqualification.

You must give the applicant a copy of the criminal background report and provide them with five days to submit mitigating information about why they should not be denied employment.

What if the applicant doesn’t challenge the conviction or provide enough mitigating evidence?

In that case, you then must send a final adverse action notice and include a notice of their rights under the FCRA and the Illinois Human Relations Act.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Illinois Background Checks

In addition to verifying a prospective hire’s identity, criminal history, credentials, education and work history, effective Illinois background checks also provide a more detailed overview of a candidate.

This allows you to hire with confidence and reduce liability by not hiring a candidate who has a potentially disqualifying background.

The advantage of working with a trusted and reliable background check company like iprospectcheck is that we have in-depth knowledge and vast experience in conducting thousands of background checks for a wide range of Illinois companies in Chicago, Aurora, Naperville, downtown Chicago and across the suburbs.

We are well-versed in the specific laws and regulations surrounding Illinois background checks.

Partnering with iprospectcheck for your company’s background check needs means that you can expect timely and accurate results, responsive customer service, compliance with all applicable laws, a streamlined experience for your candidates and cost-effective background screening options.

Our trained and experienced team of background check specialists are entirely based out of the U.S. and always prioritize delivering an exceptional screening experience.

Book a no-obligation, free consultation with one of our specialists to find out how iprospectcheck can help your company navigate the crucial background check process: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.