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Illinois Tightens Usage of Employee Background Checks

On March 23, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill (SB) 1480 into law, which added a new section to the Illinois Human Rights Act that restricts employers’ ability to rely on conviction records when making employment decisions. The new section is effective immediately and prohibits use of a conviction record as the basis for an employment decision unless (1) there is a “substantial relationship” between one or more of the candidate’s prior convictions and the job at issue; or (2) employment would involve an “unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”

To determine whether a “substantial relationship” exists, employers are required to evaluate six factors set forth in the Act: (1) the length of time since the conviction; (2) the number of convictions that appear on the conviction record; (3) the nature and severity of the conviction and its relationship to the safety and security of others; (4) the facts or circumstances surrounding the conviction; (5) the age of the employee at the time of the conviction; and (6) evidence of rehabilitation efforts.  If an employer determines that such a relationship exists, it must then engage in an interactive process comparable to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has provided additional guidance through an FAQ.