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Cook County, Illinois Limits Credit Checks for Employment Purposes

By Michael Klazema on 6/13/2015

Cook County, Illinois recently passed legislation that amends the County’s Human Rights ordinance to restrict employers from using credit histories or reports in making employment decisions. Chicago and some of its surrounding areas are located in Cook County. In accordance with Ordinance 15-3088, employers, agents of an employer, and employment agencies must not:

  1. Fire, refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to employment, classification, grading, discipline, selection for training and apprenticeship, compensation, or other term condition or privilege of employment because of an individual’s credit history or credit report;
  2. Inquire about an applicant or employee’s credit history; or
  3. Order or obtain an applicant or employee’s credit report from a consumer reporting agency.

Similar to the Illinois and Chicago laws, the County ordinance creates an exception to allow credit history to be considered when it is a bona fide occupational requirement, meaning:

  • State or federal law requires bonding or other security for the position
  • Job duties include custody of or unsupervised access to cash or marketable assets valued at $2,500 or more;
  • Job duties include signatory power over assets of $100 or more per transaction;
  • The position is managerial and involves setting the direction or control of the business;
  • The position involves access to limited categories of personal or confidential information, financial information, trade secrets, or state or national security information;
  • The position meets federal or state rules establishing that credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement; or
  • The employee or applicant’s credit history is required by or exempt under other laws.

The ordinance applies to anyone employing one or more employees, or seeking to employ one or more employees, if its principal place of business is in Cook County, or does business in Cook County. It applies to applicants for employment and any individual, whether paid or unpaid, who is engaged in the employment of an employer.  The ordinance defines “employment” to mean the performance of services for an employer: (1) for remuneration; (2) as a volunteer; or (3) as a participant in a training or apprenticeship program.

There are exemptions for government entities or organizations and certain private entities. Exemptions for the private entities include:

  1. Certain financial entities, including banks;
  2. Insurance or surety businesses authorized under Illinois law; and
  3. Debt collectors recognized under federal or state law or county ordinance.

The new ordinance is similar to the Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act and the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance. Employers who are in compliance with those laws likely will be in compliance with Cook County’s new ordinance which went into effect on June 1, 2015. What This Means For You:

  • Cook County, Illinois made it illegal to inquire about the credit history of an applicant or employee (with some exceptions).
  • You should determine whether you have employees in Cook County.  
  • If so, determine whether one of the exceptions in the law applies to you.
  • If exceptions do not apply, contact client relations to talk about setting up background screening packages without credit checks for Cook County positions.
Cook County Ordinance 15-3088: https://cook-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2285080&GUID=BDC6B73A-A6AD-4DB7-9C90-4F277A1DAAAC&Options=Advanced&Search=&FullText=1
Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3277&ChapterID=68


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