The Long Shadow of Bad Credit in a Job Search

Nearly half (47%) of employers use credit checks when making a hiring decision, according to a 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Most businesses use credit checks only to screen for certain positions, but one in eight, the survey found, does a credit check before every hire. Chi Chi Wu, a staff lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, believes that using credit checks in the hiring process is a Catch-22 that can be a kind of backdoor job discrimination. “Someone loses their job, so they can’t pay their bills – and now they can’t get a job because they couldn’t pay their bills because they lost a job?” said Wu. Experian, one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, states in its marketing materials, “Credit information provides insight into an applicant’s integrity and responsibility toward his or her financial obligations.” But to Wu and others, a credit report says more about a person’s economic circumstances than his or her moral character. So far, nine states have adopted legislation that curbs the use of credit reports to judge prospective hires.

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