City Council moves to ban credit checks in hiring

NEW YORK, NY (TIP): Employers would be banned from considering the credit histories of job applicants under a bill introduced in the City Council. A similar bill failed to gain traction last year, but is more likely to pass under the new, more left-leaning city government.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign platform last year included prohibiting credit checks as a factor in employment decisions. In a rally on the steps of City Hall Thursday, the bill’s sponsors said the legislation would end a “deeply discriminatory” practice of denying employment based on poor credit scores, and would serve notice to the credit bureaus, which they charged with wielding a disproportionate amount of power over the unemployed. “There is simply no evidence of any correlation between peoples’ credit history and their job performance,” said Councilman Brad Lander, who co-sponsored the bill.

“None.” Councilman Mark Levine said credit bureaus often treat customers like “products” and are generally unaccountable to any government agency. Ten other states have similar laws on the books, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently submitted such a bill at the federal level. Even President Barack Obama has spoken in support of banning the use of credit checks in hiring. Mr. Lander and his council colleagues were joined by dozens of advocates from unions, think tanks, legal service centers and other progressive groups, as well as a handful of New Yorkers who could personally attest to the problems that a bad credit score has caused in their search for employment.

Most companies do not use credit scores when hiring, but business leaders, particularly those on Wall Street, said the bill has the potential to make life harder for many employers. They worry that it would open employers to greater liability and limit their ability to evaluate potential job candidates. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, lumped it in with other recent bills passed by the council that impose further regulations on the private sector. “Proposals that make it more difficult and expensive to do business in the city are in direct conflict with the progressive goal of more and better jobs,” she said.

“It is hard to understand why council members are pushing measures that will discourage job creation and increase employer exposure to costly litigation. Each bill may seem modest, but cumulatively, the impact can really damage the city.” Other states with credit-check bans have carve-outs to let financial service companies make credit checks before granting employees access to sensitive customer information. Mr. Lander denounced those laws as “riddled with loopholes” that exempt all financial institution employees, even custodians. His bill would offer no such exemptions, except as mandated by state and federal law. “This would be the strongest legislation of its kind,” he said.

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