Credit Checks May Be a Form of Employment Discrimination, Study Says

Pending legislation, if passed, would make New York City one of the leaders in the battle against an under-recognized form of discrimination in employment: the use of credit reports. A Demos study using data collected in 2012 indicates that the use of credit reports during the pre-employment process constitutes a barrier to employment, particularly for lower- and middle-income individuals, whose credit scores may be affected by a number of factors beyond their control.

There are a number of reasons why legislators hope to ban credit checks from the hiring process. First, it’s not at all uncommon for credit reports to contain errors, sometimes very serious ones. Even if credit reports are accurate, there seems to be little correlation between a person’s credit history and his ability to either hold a job or perform well at work. Similarly, a bad credit score doesn’t seem to increase the employee’s likelihood of committing fraud.

Credit checks related to other issues

Perhaps more troubling is the link between bad credit and a number of factors closely related to the lives of lower- and middle-income workers, particularly those who are African-American or Latino. Unemployment, lack of access to health care and medical debt can all reflect the state of the economy as well as the effects of long histories of institutional discrimination, and are not necessarily indicative of anything that should prevent an employer from hiring a person. Even worse is the fact that a person with poor credit who is also on the job market is put in a very difficult bind: it’s hard to get a job with bad credit, and it’s impossible to pay back debt without a job.

If you have questions or concerns about the impact your credit report might have on your employment prospects, or if you believe you have been denied employment on the basis of a credit check, contact a New York City employment discrimination attorney today.

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