Cook County, Illinois Enacts Prohibition on Credit Checks
Posted: June 02, 2015
Effective immediately, most employers in Cook County, Illinois may no longer consider an individual’s credit history as part of an employment decision. This prohibition resulted from the recent passage of 15-3088 by the Cook County Board of Commissioners that amended the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.
Under the now-amended Human Rights Ordinance, no employer or employment agency may refuse to hire, terminate employment or otherwise discriminate based on an individual’s credit history or credit report. Further, employers may not inquire into an individual’s credit history or obtain an individual’s credit report from a Consumer Reporting Agency. (Note, these prohibitions apply to both job applicants and current employees).
Employers may obtain credit history information if there is an “established bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position or a particular group of employees”. There are several possible circumstances under which this exemption requirement may be met:
- State or federal law requires bonding or other security covering an individual holding the position.
- Duties of the position include custody of or unsupervised access to cash or marketable assets valued at $2,500 or more.
- Duties of the position include signatory power over business assets of $100 or more per transaction.
- Position is a managerial position which involves setting the direction or control of the business.
- Position involves access to personal or confidential information, financial information, trade secrets, or state or national security information.
- Position meets criteria in administrative rules, if any, that the U.S. Department of Labor or the Illinois Department of Labor has promulgated to establish the circumstances in which a satisfactory credit history is a bone fide occupational requirement.
- Employee’s credit history is otherwise required by or exempt under other applicable law.
Further, the prohibitions do not apply to particular employer types, including banks, credit unions or financial holding companies, companies authorized to engage in insurance or surety business, municipal law enforcement or debt collection companies.
Finally, the amendment does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks as permitted by the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The City of Chicago (which is located in Cook County) and Illinois already have prohibitions against the procurement of credit history for use in employment decisions in effect, so it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, this county-level law will have on employers. Employers should consult with qualified legal counsel to determine if any changes to their hiring processes are required.
 As defined in the amendment, “credit history means a record of an individual’s past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy.”
 As defined in the amendment, “credit report means any written or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency that bears on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, or credit history.”