No one should experience the loss of a job offer because he/she couldn’t pass a criminal background check. Unfortunately, many job seekers face this predicament, partially because they believe after seven years their background can’t legally be reported or no longer exists.


No one needs to play criminal background roulette. All job applicants should know how criminal background checks are performed and what their rights are in the event a background report contains information that is inaccurate or belongs someone else.

The pitfall of background checks

Criminal background checks have become an integral part of today’s hiring process. Most job offers are conditioned on “passing” a criminal background check.

Although Illinois law imposes restrictions on what an employer can ask a job applicant about his or her criminal history or rely on when making a decision to hire, these limits are routinely ignored. This is because the majority of background checks are performed by consumer reporting agencies contracted by employers. These agencies are not regulated by state law and therefore provide employers with information they are not supposed to see.

Illinois Ban-the-Box Law

As of January 1, 2015, most employers in Illinois are barred from including a criminal history question on their application for employment.  Only after the employer has concluded that a job applicant is qualified for the job and is contacted for an interview can a job applicant be asked about whether he or she has a criminal background

Illinois bars employers from asking about arrests

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), employers are prohibited from asking job applicants if they have ever been arrested for crimes for which there were no resulting convictions. The law, however, allows employers to consider any arrest where an individual pled guilty to a crime, even if he/she received supervision, community service or special probation.  In each of these cases, the individual has not legally been convicted of a crime, provided he/she completes the terms of the sentence successfully.

Fortunately, the IHRA also stipulates that a job applicant cannot be asked about criminal cases that were previously expunged or sealed. Thus, the easiest way not to be penalized for having a criminal record (no matter how long ago the crime took place) is to remove it from the prying eyes of a consumer reporting agency, the one who reports this information to employers for a profit.

For more information, download Criminal Records Relief in Illinois.

How a criminal background check is performed

Generally speaking, there are two ways to conduct a criminal background check:

  • Public records search
  • Fingerprint/ live-scan (electronic) search

What type of background check is performed, and by whom, will affect what information about you will be reported to the party requesting the information. If you are concerned about what information will be reported, click here for more information about the difference between a public records and fingerprint (law enforcement) background check.


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