Guide to Illinois Background Checks

Danielle Hubein
May 04, 2023
7 min read

A pre-employment background check in Illinois can help verify a candidate’s qualifications by providing a look into their education, employment history, criminal records, and more. Employers may use background check information to make informed hiring decisions, but must be sure to comply with all federal, state, and local laws.

Employers can choose to conduct employment background checks in Illinois by searching public records themselves or, to speed turnaround times and get more accurate and comprehensive results, they can partner with a qualified consumer reporting agency (CRA). This guide to Illinois background checks provides an overview about what is involved with conducting an Illinois background check and which federal, state, and local laws may apply.

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What is an Illinois background check?

Illinois employers may use a background check to verify candidate or volunteer eligibility and qualifications during the hiring process. An employment background check in Illinois may be conducted directly by an employer or with the help of a trusted consumer reporting agency (CRA), like Checkr.

Common types of Illinois background screenings include:

  • Criminal background checks to search a candidate’s criminal history, which may include federal, state, and county records to report felony or misdemeanor convictions.
  • Employment verification to verify previous employers, positions held, length of employment, and identify any employment gaps.
  • Professional reference checks to conduct interviews with past employers to obtain information about a candidate’s previous employment experience.
  • Education verification to validate a candidate’s educational background, including schools attended, dates of attendance, and degrees earned.
  • Civil court checks to learn about non-criminal claims, judgements and suits.
  • Driving record (MVR) checks to search a candidate’s driving history, including license class and status, any safety-related incidents such as accidents, moving violations, or vehicle-related convictions like DUIs.
  • Drug testing to screen for the presence of alcohol and controlled substances to promote a safe workplace.

In Illinois, certain jobs may require fingerprint-based criminal background checks. These include childcare workers, licensed and unlicensed school district workers, healthcare workers, carnival workers, and private security.

How to get a background check in Illinois

Illinois employers may conduct an IL background check themselves by requesting records from law enforcement agencies and contacting previous employers or educational institutions, but this can become a time-consuming and tedious process. Partnering with a trusted CRA, like Checkr, helps hiring managers streamline the background screening process, with quicker turnaround times and more accurate reporting.

Whether you’re just getting started or onboarding hundreds of new hires at a time, Checkr makes it easy to quickly scale your hiring. Checkr also helps your organization enable compliance with federal, state, and local laws during the hiring process.

How long does a background check take in Illinois?

Turnaround times for Illinois background checks can vary depending on the scope of the screening, if the records are digitized, as well as who is conducting the background check. Searching records yourself can be a time-consuming process. Some records may not be available online and must be requested by phone, mail, or by visiting the courthouse.

Employers can speed turnaround times by working with a qualified CRA, like Checkr. With access to databases and thousands of public records, along with a network of court runners across the US, Checkr provides comprehensive results and a streamlined process.

Checkr’s database screenings, including SSN Trace and National Criminal Records Checks, are often completed within seconds. For county criminal record screenings that may take more time, a unique product feature, Checkr ETA, provides an estimated turnaround time for each background check report enabling transparency for employers and candidates alike.

How far back do background checks go in Illinois?

How far back background checks go in Illinois may depend on the type of screening and if the employer is conducting the background check directly or working with a CRA. Federal, state, and local laws may also impact lookback periods as well (See “Illinois background check laws” and “County resources,” below.).

However, Illinois has several laws that may impact the criminal history information employers may review during the hiring process, regardless of time:

  • Unless expunged or sealed, felony and misdemeanor convictions remain part of a person’s criminal record in Illinois indefinitely.
  • Juvenile records are sealed to the public.
  • Specific driving offenses related to intoxication, such as DUIs, remain indefinitely.
  • Records of traffic violations on an applicant’s motor vehicle record are typically removed within four or five years; seven years if the violation results in a suspension or revocation of the driver’s license.

Illinois employers that use a CRA to conduct pre-employment background checks must also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which sets time limits on lookback periods. The FCRA restricts non-conviction information reported by a CRA to a 7-year lookback period which includes arrest-only records, civil judgments, tax liens, and most credit report information. It excludes bankruptcies, which may be reported for up to 10 years and criminal convictions which may be reported indefinitely. If a candidate’s expected salary is $75,000 or higher or if searches are conducted by the employer themselves, these limitations do not apply.

When conducting checks without the help of a CRA, employers may be able to go farther back as far as needed to verify education, employment history, credentialing, or licensing.

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Illinois background check laws

When conducting background checks, it is important for Illinois employers to remain in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. These laws may include Ban the Box and fair hiring laws designed to help protect applications from discrimination during the hiring process. Below is an overview of laws that impact background checks in Illinois:

Ban the Box laws

Illinois has two statewide laws Ban the Box laws that apply to both public and private sector employers:

Executive Order 2013-1

Summary: Under this law, State of Illinois public sector employers are not permitted to inquire about criminal history on job applications. In the event a candidate is not hired due to information found on criminal records, employers are required to first conduct a series of assessments before sending a final adverse action notice. See law.

Illinois House Bill 5701

Summary: Employers in the private sector with at least 15 employees are required to wait until a candidate has been selected for an interview before they can inquire about criminal history. If there is no interview, they must wait until a conditional offer has been made. See law.

Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act

Summary: In Illinois, under the Uniform Conviction Act, criminal record information that is collected and maintained by the Illinois State Police must be made accessible to the public. However, only conviction information is available. See law.

Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA)

Summary: Under the IHRA, which includes 775 ILCS 5/2-103 and Senate Bill 1480, it is a civil rights violation for an employer to use arrest or conviction records against a candidate as a basis for denying employment. They also cannot review expunged, sealed, or impounded arrest records. Exclusions to IHRA may apply if an employer is authorized or required by law to conduct a criminal background check in Illinois.

Under the IHRA, Illinois employers can consider conviction records as a basis for hiring during the hiring process if there is a “substantial relationship” between the job and the offense or if the candidate may be an “unreasonable risk” to workplace safety or property. This law also requires employers to evaluate certain factors when reviewing conviction records, including length of time since the conviction, number of convictions, circumstances of the conviction, relevance to safety, and any rehabilitation efforts since the conviction.

Employers must also let a candidate know in writing of any preliminary adverse action and provide the opportunity to challenge any negative information that shows up on a criminal history report. Under this law, should an Illinois employer decide not to hire someone based on information found in a criminal background check, under IHRA, they are required to provide the candidate with a written explanation. See law.

Employee Credit Privacy Act

Summary: Under 820 ILCS 70, more commonly known as the Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act, employers cannot ask about a candidate’s credit history or check their credit report during a pre-employment background check. However, if an applicant’s credit history is a “bona fide occupational requirement” for the position, the employer may be able to run a credit check. For example, jobs that have access to confidential financial information or cash and other assets may be exempt from this law. See law.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Summary: In Illinois, employers conducting a background check through a CRA must comply with FCRA requirements. These requirements include providing a candidate with proper disclosure of intent to conduct a background check, obtaining written consent prior to conducting any screenings, and following the adverse action process should they decide not to hire a candidate due to information that was revealed in a background check. See law.

If you are unsure of the applicable federal, state, or local Illinois background check laws, you should consult with your legal counsel or HR professionals. Your organization may wish to comply with the strictest laws to mitigate the risk of potential liability.

County resources

Use the resources below to learn about Ban the Box laws and public records in some of Illinois' largest counties:

Cook County

With more than 5.2 million residents, Cook County is the most populous county in Illinois and home to more than 40 percent of the state’s population. The county seat is the city of Chicago, the third largest city in the US. There are many colleges and universities in the county, along with a thriving arts, culture, and restaurant industry.

Public Information & Records:

  • Ban the Box laws apply to both public and private sector employers in Chicago.

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DuPage County

More than 932,000 people reside in DuPage County. Located in the Chicago metropolitan area, the county is highly suburban but was once known for its tallgrass prairies and later its steel mills. Today DuPage County is the hub of the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor and has many corporate offices, including Ace Hardware, BP, OfficeMax, and the Sara Lee Corporation. The county has many arts and cultural activities, historic landmarks, forest preserves, and outdoor recreation trails.

Public Information & Records:

Kane County

Home to more than 515,000 people, Kane County is located in the northeastern portion of Illinois, and its county seat is Geneva. It has trails and state parks, along with a large forest preserve program. There are several colleges and universities in the county. Key industries include manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and education.

Public Information & Records:

Lake County

More than 714,000 residents live in Lake County, making it the third-most populous county in Illinois. The county seat is the city of Waukegan. It is an affluent suburb of Chicago and borders Wisconsin to the north. US Naval Station Great Lakes is located in Lake County and used by the Navy for training and recruiting. Along with many outdoor recreational areas, the county has arts and culture attractions, historic landmarks, and amusement parks.

Public Information & Records:

Will County

Will County is located in northeastern Illinois and has a population of more than 696,000 people. Its county seat is Joliet. Two canals and several rivers run through the county, and there are many protected nature areas, including the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. It is also a major national natural gas pipeline grid with pipelines from many major energy companies and ExxonMobil owns and operates a refinery in the county.

Public Information & Records:

Get an Illinois state background check with Checkr

A trusted background check provider, like Checkr, can help Illinois employers streamline the pre-employment background check process with faster, accurate results. No matter the size of your business, Checkr offers many background screening options to help you scale quickly. Our modern platform with built-in workflows speeds the process while helping enable compliance and reduce bias. Get started with an Illinois background check today.

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background check today


The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Compliance Manager, Danielle analyzes the ever-changing laws and regulations affecting background screening to ensure that Checkr and its customers stay compliant. She also writes content to educate employers about background checks, screening best practices, and fair hiring laws. 

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