Legislation Aims to Prevent Job Applicant Credit Checks

A new measure introduced by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and co-sponsored by five other legislators would ban companies from conducting credit checks on most prospective employees. The bill, named the Equal Employment for All Act, would outlaw the checks in many fields, with limited exceptions like for jobs related to national security.

“There’s little or no evidence of any correlation between job performance and a credit score,” Warren said. “This is a point of basic fairness. People who get hit with hard economic blows end up getting squeezed out of the system.”

A research brief released by the Demos Foundation, a liberal think-tank, notes that one of the most common reasons for bad credit is the loss of a job and health insurance. Those losses, consequently, make it a challenge to pay bills on time, Demos found. A Demos report also shows that one in 10 unemployed Americans have been denied a job because of information in their credit reports. Many of these checks are run on applicants seeking entry-level positions.

However, trade groups like the Consumer Data Industry Association defend the use of applicant credit checks as a basis for preventing embezzlement and fraud. Data from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that each year there are about $1 trillion worth of employee thefts – an average of $175,000 per business. That figure increases to $200,000 for companies with fewer than 100 employees.