Is this the end for pre-employment credit checks in Illinois?!?!
The latest press release from the governor’s office would have you think so. Governor Pat Quinn is touting himself as a hero to the unemployed having just signed a bill into law that he says will stop employers from denying a job or promotion based on information that is not an indicator of a person’s character or ability to do a job well.”
Well…I think his heart is in the right place. (Do politicians have those?) Either way, the law’s not as harsh as it sounds, nor did it need to be in my opinion.

Most of the fear that people have about employers using credit reports has been manifested by the credit bureaus themselves. Credit bureaus spend tens of millions of dollars each year on catchy marketing campaigns that warn us that our credit report will affect our ability to land most any job or get a promotion. Why would they do that? you ask. They do it so we must go to their (or their affiliates’) websites to retreive our “free” credit report. Once there, we find out it’s not free at all if we want to see our credit score and they also try to sell us credit monitoring for “our protection”.

The fact is, most employers use credit reports only when it makes sense to do so. After all, they want to fill positions quickly and they don’t want to pay for extra services they don’t need. Visit our previous posting (Why do Employers Want to Check My Credit Report 07/28/2010) , for more details on why employers check credit.

Certainly there are companies out there who abuse their access to credit reports as well. Quinns’ new law should be a good deterrence for preventing unnecessary and potentially discriminative use of credit checks. However, for employers in Illinois that have a legitimate purpose for using credit report information, they need not worry. There are exceptions to every rule and this bill has several in the fine print. Here’s the facts on when Illinois employers are STILL able to access credit reports for pre-employment screening after House Bill 4658 goes into effect on Jan 1st 2011.

Employers may access credit checks under limited circumstances, including positions that involve

a. bonding or security per state or federal law;
b. unsupervised access to more than $2,500;
c. signatory power over businesses assets of more than $100;
d. management and control of the business;
e. access to personal, financial or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information.

As you can see, these exceptions “access to confidential information” or trade secrets” allow quite a bit of room for interpretation. That’s not an invite to abuse the loopholes. Ultimately, a court of law would decide if a company was too liberal with the exceptions, and there’s no need to be made an example of.

Let’s hope that House Bill 4658 serves it’s intended purpose and allows more job seekers in Illinois not to worry about being judged by unavoidable credit damage in the wake of this recession. At the same time, employers can breathe easy that positions that really need to take financial stability into account for the protection of themselves and their clients, can still do so without repercussions.

Please note:, Background Screening Made Simple Blog, and Background Screening Consultants LLC, do not provide legal advice. Postings, articles, press releases and other distributed or verbalized information should be considered as guidelines and suggestions based upon professional experience, research and industry best practices. Questions or decisions regarding employer’s legal rights or applicants legal rights should be directed towards legal representation.