States To Challenge Employment Credit Checks; New Legislation Would Limit Their Use

A few years ago, after another period of unemployment, I'd interviewed for a good job and done very well. They were very enthusiastic and told me they

A few years ago, after another period of unemployment, I'd interviewed for a good job and done very well. They were very enthusiastic and told me they'd call me back for yet another interview but instead, I got a letter telling me I'd been eliminated from consideration for bad credit - which, you know, was the main reason I needed the job.

This legislation proposes to change that, and naturally I agree. But I think we're going to see a major rewrite on any laws having to do with credit ratings, at least when it comes to things like this:

Amid skyrocketing layoffs and mortgage foreclosures, several states and the federal government are pushing new rules to stop employers from unfairly screening out job applicants who can't pass a credit check.

Five states are considering laws that would restrict credit checks by employers. Stuart Ishimaru, President Obama's acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is a vocal critic of the checks and has called for the agency to begin issuing guidelines on how such checks should be carried out.

About 43% of U.S. employers check job applicants for overdue payments on anything from mortgages and rent to credit cards and student loans, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and security consultant Kroll. That's up from 36% in 2004, a Kroll survey found.

But the checks are under fire from some lawmakers who say needy and trustworthy people are being shut out of jobs — at a time when the economy is bad and hiring is severely cut back.

"It's almost like being forever sentenced to debtors' prison," said Hawaii state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a Democrat.

Said Democratic state Rep. Matthew Lesser of Connecticut, "There's an awareness that a lot of people have bad credit for reasons that have nothing to do with their worth as an employee."

Bills by Lesser and Oshiro aim to eliminate many credit checks by requiring employers to prove they are vital to hiring. "Employers do the checks routinely without showing there's any connection to the job," said state lawmaker Michael Benjamin, a New York Democrat, whose bill would restrict credit checks.

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