Progressive populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren says checking prospective employees' credit history is "discrimination" and is calling on American employers to end the practice, which she argues "bears no relationship to job performance and that can be riddled with inaccuracies."
In a new Time op-ed, the Massachusetts senator, along with Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen (D) warned that the common practice of employers checking the credit history of potential employees was wrongheadedly discriminatory against "hard working people," noting that "one in five job-seekers could be rejected by an employer because their credit report lists a medical debt in default—even when they’ve paid off the debt in full and on time":
Credit reporting companies that sell Americans’ personal data to potential employers have pushed the narrative that a credit history somehow provides insight into someone’s character. But, as even a representative from the TransUnion credit bureau admitted, they “don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance.” In fact, research has shown that an individual’s credit has little to no correlation with his or her ability to succeed in the workplace. Credit reports are not a way to screen out bad potential employees; they are just a way to discriminate against people who have fallen on hard times.
Not only are credit reports poor indicators of job performance, but in many cases they aren’t even accurate. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported in 2013 that as many as 1 in 5 consumers could identify at least one error in their credit reports. That’s compounded by the difficulty in correcting errors—not only are consumers often unaware an error exists in the first place, but credit reporting agencies can be frustratingly slow to respond when it comes to fixing those mistakes.
A credit history, Warren suggested, was no proper indicator for a potential employees capabilities, and using it to help weed out candidates amounted to legalized "discrimination":
For hardworking people struggling to make ends meet, the only way to get back on their feet is to find a good job and earn a paycheck. But even when they are able to sell their homes—often at a loss—or after they are forced to close their business’ doors or find temporary work, that bad credit history continues to haunt them.
And despite the often-desperate effort to find a job, many employers are unfairly shutting the door on applicants with less-than-stellar credit. We should call this what it is: discrimination.
As the Huffington Post noted, both Warren and Cohen have reintroduced the Equal Employment for All Act, which would ban employers from checking the credit reports of potential employees with a few exceptions. The legislation, the two lawmakers wrote, "makes sure that hiring decisions are based on an individual’s skill and experience—not on past financial struggles."
"This is an issue of basic fairness," Warren argued. "Americans should be able to compete for jobs on their merits, not on whether they have enough money to pay all their bills."
"Much of America—hard-working, bill-paying America—has damaged credit," the fierce Wall Street watchdog observed. "It is wrong to shut them out of the job market."