Law changes in Illinois, Massachusetts affect background screenings

A week ago, I wrote a post on my blog, The Security Check, about ethics in background checks, specifically related to misinformation in background checks. This week, I was alerted by background screening firm OPENonline LLC that Illinois now prohibits employers from discriminating against potential and existing employees based on credit checks. The (Illinois) Employee Credit Privacy Act (IL HB4658, signed by the Governor in August) notes that there are exceptions:

"Employers may access credit checks under limited circumstances, including positions that involve: bonding or security per state or federal law; unsupervised access to more than $2,500; signatory power over businesses assets of more than $100; management and control of the business; access to personal, financial or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information."

Also that month (and again, thanks to OPENonline for sharing this information), Massachusetts changed its policy on inquiries into criminal histories for "initial" applicants. Again, thanks to OPENonline for sharing this information in their enewsletter:

"Massachusetts employers are prohibited from asking questions on an 'initial written application form' about an applicant's 'criminal offender record information,' which includes information about criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration." This is from the most up-to-date version of the Commonwealth's Criminal Offender Record Information law (CORI).

One thing is for sure: Improperly conducting background checks could exposure your firm to lawsuits. For security managers overseeing background checks, I recommend you work closely with your human resources team to ensure you're current on legal requirements in all of the states in which your firm operates. A video of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn discussing Illinois' new prohibition of credit checks as part of employment screening follows: