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Why employer credit checks are wrong

Published Nov 5, 2010 7:59 PM

It is now 2010 and the U.S. economy is in the midst of the worst recession since the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, many people are out of work, there are record foreclosures, and many people are accumulating debts or cannot pay their bills. Job searches are hindered by racism, age discrimination and in many cases a poor credit history. Your credit can prevent you from getting loans, mortgages or even a job.

When a friend told me years ago that she was applying for a second job, she said she was informed that the company was doing a credit check. This did not make any sense; what does a person’s financial background have to do with their ability to do a job? Secondly, how can you pay bills and debts if you are unemployed?

Being in debt should not be a moral issue or a rule of judgment because it can happen to anyone; these days it is like an epidemic because of the economy. Prolonged unemployment, identity theft and errors on your credit report can keep you out of work. Employers do not care if any of these things play any role in the potential employee or worker’s situation. According to USA Today, 13 percent of employers use credit reports in their hiring decisions.

The state of Oregon has banned the use of credit history checks by employers. Its Legislative Assembly passed House Bill 1045 and the governor signed it into law in March. Seventeen other states including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut also have bills pending, but they have been sitting around since July 2009. Sen. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, has proposed the Equal Employment for All Act; this bill would prevent credit checks with only a few exceptions.

As a consumer and worker, you do have rights and there are things you can do to address this problem. Write your state legislators and urge them to sign the bill into law; it bars employers from using your credit history to deny you a job. Seventeen states have this bill. If your state does not have the bill, urge your state lawmakers to write one. Be aware that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to request your written consent to do a credit check.

Employers must also let you know that adverse actions can be taken against you for information in your report. Do not refuse. If you do, you could be eliminated from the hiring process immediately. If an employer denies you a job because of your credit history, you have a right to know; you have 60 days to request a copy of the report in question and learn which credit bureau supplied the information.

Stay on top of your credit history and take steps to remove errors. The credit bureaus are big business and they don’t care about workers who have financial problems. They are another tool in the racist, capitalist, imperialist monster that runs our society today. People who cannot pay their bills should not be punished by being denied the very thing they need to pay them — a job.

Denying someone the right to a job is the same thing as denying humans the essential things they need to survive: food, shelter and health care. This is unjust, immoral, evil and stupid. This vicious cycle needs to be stopped. A job is a right not a gift!