TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) today introduced a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on an individual’s credit history or financial status, a practice that has become widespread in today’s job market. The bill would also prohibit an employer from making any inquiries into the credit history or financial status of an applicant for employment, unless a good credit history or financial status is an established bona fide occupational requirement for a particular position.
“Credit reports lack any sort of nuance that might indicate the extenuating circumstances under which a person has found themselves in financial danger,” said Sen. Turner. “The current economic crisis is a prime example of why we need to put an end to this practice. Last year, nearly 3 million households were threatened with foreclosure. This epidemic has had disastrous effects on millions of families who previously had good credit. At the same time, high unemployment rates have forced many people to take on debt they wouldn’t normally accrue in order to remain in their homes and put food on the table. Allowing employers to discriminate based on credit history creates a vicious cycle that can prevent many people from getting back on their feet financially.”
According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, sixty percent of employers run credit checks on job applicants. Sen. Turner noted that this trend has given rise to an increasing number of discrimination lawsuits. In October, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit against Freeman, a nationwide convention services firm, on the basis that it used credit reports and criminal records to unfairly discriminate against African-American, Hispanic and male job applicants.
“Given all the outside factors that can affect someone’s financial status, a credit check is not a reliable indicator of one’s character or their ability to do the job. For example, we are all too familiar with the many scenarios where poor health coverage or a lack of coverage has sent families spiraling into debt to pay for medical treatment. The last thing people like this need are additional obstacles standing in the way of gainful employment.”
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