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Illinois Public Records Laws

Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act (IL FOIA) grants individuals the statutory right to access, inspect and copy many government documents and materials. Additionally, anyone who places a request for public documents does not need to disclose their reasoning for desiring the information they are searching out.

Individuals looking to access public records are entitled to view and copy any records in association with public bodies such as state universities and colleges, cities, townships and villages, as well as executive, legislative and administrative government agencies. The designation of an item as public record is rather broad, and it includes any maps, books, photographs, cards, tapes, microfilms, electronic media or other materials that have been sent, received or stored by a public body.

While many documents and materials are accessible, some exemptions apply that allow a government body to deny a request for public records. These exemptions include not supplying trade secrets, financial information or any answer keys that could be used to compromise the validity of a formal test. Although these exemptions apply to many documents, a public body must still present any portion of an otherwise exempt document that does not violate any exemptions.

For more information regarding the public records laws of Illinois, examine chapter 5, act 140 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes in its entirety.

Illinois Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

The Illinois Uniform Conviction Information Act (UCIA) mandates that all criminal history records conviction information that has been maintained or collected by the Illinois State Police be made available to the public. These public records only contain conviction information, however, and do not supply other instances of interaction with law enforcement.

In order to acquire criminal records, there must be a request form and fee payment delivered to the Illinois Bureau of Identification. Request forms can either be non-fingerprint or fingerprint based, the latter confirming positive identification of the person to whom the fingerprints on the request form belong.

The Illinois State Police are also responsible for issuing state background checks, and they have created a guide to examining Illinois background checks.

Illinois Jail and Inmate Records

Illinois jail and inmate records can be found through the Illinois Department of Corrections. A name-based search database has been created for online inmate searches, and it can be accessed on the Illinois Department of Corrections website.

More information regarding Illinois’s jail and inmate records can be found within Illinois’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

Illinois Court Records

Illinois Court Records at the state and local levels can be obtained by submitting a written request to the clerk at the court in which the case was held. They will usually be able to supply individuals with this form upon request. Many records are accessible by right, but rights of access do not cover all court records in Illinois.

The contact information for the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts can be found on the Illinois Courts government webpage.

Illinois Vital Records

Vital Records are handled by the Illinois Department of Public Health and include birth records, death records, marriage records, dissolution of marriage records, adoption records, genealogy records, civil union records and dissolution of civil union records. The earliest Illinois birth and death records on file date back to 1877, with formal state registration beginning in 1916. Birth records are not public records in the state of Illinois, and only very few people are entitle to receive copies of them. Birth certificates older than 75 years, however, can be accessed for purposes of genealogical research.

Illinois vital records can be accessed by placing a request through the county clerk’s office.

Let’s also look at the details of employment background checks conducted in Illinois.

Eligibility for Employment in Illinois

IL is an employment “at will” state meaning that employment can be terminated at any time by either the employer or employee– although the employer cannot discharge an employee based on race, age, sex, or disability. Generally, one must be at least 16 years of age to be employed. Exceptions are granted to minors– specifically 14 and 15 year-old– working in non-hazardous professions and only working during non-school hours. Professions deemed hazardous include ones that may seem less than obvious such as working at an ice-skating rink or bowling alley.

Drug Screening

There is no law that requires nor prohibits employers from conducting a drug screening in Illinois. Many may fall prey to the misconception that the Illinois Drug Free Workplace Act enforces a drug test; rather, it simply states that workplaces must be free from drugs. If one is to do drugs off the job, they don’t fit this provision. This law applies to employers with 25 or more employees, and mirrors a federal law called the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988.

Employers that qualify under the Illinois Drug Free Workplace Act must:

  • publish a statement announcing the drug free workplace policy
  • post and distribute the notice/statement to all employees involved in contract or grant work with the state/ federal government
  • establish a drug free awareness program to inform employees of potential penalties, available counseling, and dangers of drug use in the workplace
  • notify the contracting or granting agency of any criminal drug convictions of employees
  • impose penalties or require employees to complete a rehabilitation program in response to any such convictions
  • assist employees if drug 5 counseling, treatment and rehabilitation are required
  • make a good faith effort at maintaining a drug free workplace.

Background Screening in Illinois

In Illinois, employers may consider prior convictions when making employment decisions. However, use of arrest information or sealed or expunged convictions is prohibited. As long as a firm gets permission from the subject who is being checked, said firm can obtain criminal background checks from either a private firm or the IL state police. Background screenings can be made required in order to advance in the employment process.

If one is a non-licensed health care worker providing direct care to patients in Illinois, they are required to have criminal background checks performed by the Illinois State Police. The same rule of conducting criminal background checks applies to individuals applying for positions involving direct, daily contact with students anywhere within a school district in Illinois.

Medical and Psychiatric Exams for Determination of Employment

Medical and psychiatric exams can be used to screen applicants to see if they would be able to perform the position in question safely and efficiently. However, under no circumstances may such an exam discriminate against an applicant with disabilities. A safeguard against discrimination occurring has become the implementation of such a test only after a position has already been offered. In other words, employments at that point is conditional upon passing the test of ability. As long as the applicant can perform the conditions of the job safely and efficiently either with or without reasonable accommodation, an employer may not discriminate based upon disability.

If an employer uses medical and psychiatric exams, they must use them on all applicants. Additionally, they must come last in terms of all other types of screening used– this is also separately required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers must make reasonable accommodations when appropriate, and take all necessary steps to keep medical information confidential. This includes medical examinations and test results. The doctor performing any medical examination should be informed of the precise nature and demands of the position so that they can examine the applicant in terms of the specific job requirements.

Other Laws and Screenings

Illinois used to be a state in which one could be screened for employment in terms of credit score. However, in 2010, then IL Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that prohibited such a practice. There are certain exceptions to this rule, which include positions in which bonding or security is required per state or federal law, where there is unsupervised access to more than $2,500, signatory power over businesses assets of more than $100, management or control over the business, and access to personal, financial or confidential information, trade secrets, or state or national security information. If an employer does request a credit check, the page on which the job applicant signs must only concern the credit check– e.g. nothing else extraneous may be on the page.

Outside of Illinois, credit checks have been fairly popular in practice, with over 60 per cent of employers doing one in some regard.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
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