Most employers in Cook County, Illinois, which includes the City of Chicago, will be prohibited from discriminating against either applicants for employment or employees based on their credit history or a credit report as a result of an amendment to the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance that goes into effect June 1, 2015. “Credit history” is defined in the Ordinance to mean a record of the individual’s past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy.

When the amended Ordinance takes effect, most Cook County employers may not fire, refuse to hire or recruit, or otherwise discriminate against applicants or employees because of credit history or credit reports. Nor may employers inquire about an employee’s or applicant’s credit history or order or obtain an applicant’s or employee’s credit report from a consumer reporting agency.

The Ordinance permits employers to inquire and take an applicant’s or employee’s credit history into account only if a satisfactory credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement for a particular position, which can be established only (a) if State or federal law requires bonding or other security for an individual holding the position; (b) the position provides access to cash or marketable assets valued at $2,500 or more; (c) the duties of the position include signatory power over business assets of $100 or more; (d) the position is a managerial position that involves setting the direction or control of the business; (e) the position involves access to personal or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information; or (f) the position meets criteria in rules of either the United States Department of Labor or the Illinois Department of Labor defining additional circumstances in which a satisfactory credit history is a bona fide occupational qualification.

Certain employers are excepted from these newly enacted provisions: (a) banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, trust companies and their subsidiaries and affiliates; (b) insurance and surety companies and their agents; (c) municipal law enforcement agencies; and (d) debt collectors.

The amended Ordinance allows employers to conduct thorough background investigations on applicants and employees, so long as any report that is obtained does not include credit history information and complies with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.