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How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Illinois

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Illinois?

Background checks have become an integral part of many hiring processes in today’s world. Employers want to ensure that they are making informed decisions when hiring new employees. In the state of Illinois, there are regulations that dictate how far back a background check can go and what information can be included. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of how far back a background check goes in Illinois and answer frequently asked questions related to this topic.

In Illinois, the extent to which a background check can go back depends on the type of background check being conducted. There are different levels of background checks, each with its own limitations. Here are the various types of background checks and their respective timeframes:

1. Criminal Background Check: Employers in Illinois can conduct a criminal background check that goes back as far as the applicant’s entire criminal history. This means that any criminal conviction, regardless of how old it is, can be considered during the hiring process. However, it is important to note that the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from considering arrests or criminal charges that did not lead to a conviction, unless the case is still pending or there is a reasonable basis to believe the individual committed the offense.

2. Employment Credit Check: If an employer wishes to conduct a credit check as part of the background check, there are certain limitations. In Illinois, the majority of employers are not allowed to consider an applicant’s credit history for employment purposes. However, some exceptions exist, such as positions in financial institutions or where credit information is relevant to the job, such as for positions involving fiduciary responsibility or access to sensitive financial information. In these cases, an employer can consider credit history that goes back up to seven years.

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3. Education and Employment Verification: Background checks may also include verification of an applicant’s education and employment history. Typically, these checks aim to confirm the accuracy of the information provided by the applicant on their resume or job application. The timeframe for these verifications depends on the information provided by the applicant and the thoroughness of the investigation conducted by the employer. Generally, employers will verify the most recent employment history and educational qualifications within the past five to ten years.


Q: Can an employer ask an applicant about their expunged or sealed criminal records?
A: No, under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employers are not allowed to ask applicants about their expunged or sealed criminal records.

Q: Are there any limitations on the types of criminal records that can be considered during a background check?
A: Yes, certain criminal records cannot be considered for employment purposes, such as juvenile records, records that have been sealed or expunged, and arrest records that did not lead to a conviction.

Q: Can an employer refuse to hire someone based solely on their criminal record?
A: It depends. The Illinois Human Rights Act requires employers to consider the nature of the offense, its relationship to the job, the time elapsed since the offense, the applicant’s employment history since the offense, and evidence of rehabilitation or lack thereof. Employers must conduct an individualized assessment and cannot have a blanket policy of refusing to hire individuals with criminal records.

Q: Do background checks in Illinois include drug testing?
A: Drug testing is not considered a standard component of a background check. However, some employers may require drug testing as a separate part of the hiring process, especially for safety-sensitive positions or jobs that involve the handling of controlled substances.

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Q: How long does it take to complete a background check in Illinois?
A: The duration of a background check can vary depending on the complexity of the check and the responsiveness of the sources being contacted. On average, a background check can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete.

In conclusion, the extent to which a background check can go back in Illinois depends on the type of check being conducted. Criminal background checks can consider an applicant’s entire criminal history, while credit checks are limited to the past seven years in most cases. Education and employment verifications typically focus on the most recent five to ten years. It is important for employers to understand and follow the regulations set forth by the Illinois Human Rights Act to ensure a fair and legal hiring process.

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