Labor-Community Coalition calls for ban on employment credit checks
|For immediate release
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Sarah Ludwig – 212-680-5100
Andy Morrison – 646-408-3735
NEW YORKERS CALL FOR BAN ON CREDIT CHECKS IN HIRING
Practice Unfairly Blocks New Yorkers from Jobs
A coalition of more than 60 labor, civil rights, community and student groups today called on the New York City Council to pass Intro. 857, the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, which would ban credit checks by employers in NYC. More than a dozen NYC Council Members joined the coalition for a press conference on the City Hall steps, along with New Yorkers harmed by employment credit checks, to expose the unwarranted and discriminatory impact of this growing practice.
The press event preceded a City Council committee hearing on Intro. 857, at which dozens of organizations testified.
The coalition also unveiled new research findings today from a survey of hiring practices by small businesses located throughout New York City. Of the 80 small businesses surveyed, only three said they conducted employment credit checks of any kind. “The main purchasers of employment credit reports are large corporations and chain stores, not the thousands of local small businesses that make up the economic lifeblood of New York City neighborhoods,” said Deyanira Del Rio, Associate Director at NEDAP, one of the groups that conducted the survey.
Speakers at the press event included an Iraq War veteran, a retail worker, and a community college student – all denied desperately-needed jobs based on negative and erroneous information in their credit reports.
“I served in the military for 30 years and received the highest level security clearances,” said Brooklyn resident and war veteran Emmett Pinkston. “Yet I was turned down for a job as a TSA baggage screener because of a bogus charge on my credit report. I found myself stuck at a low paying job.”
“Employers should not deny people jobs based on their credit history – especially during this time of severe economic hardship,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Chair of the Progressive Caucus and lead sponsor of the bill. “Whether from catastrophic medical expenses, death of a spouse, or predatory lending, many New Yorkers have poor credit through little or no fault of their own.”
Speakers underscored the national credit reporting industry’s role in driving employment credit checks to expand markets and boost profits. “The credit reporting agencies are a powerful industry that has carved out a new profit niche by marketing and selling people’s credit reports to employers,” said Andy Morrison from NYPIRG. “This is despite the fact that TransUnion, the nation’s third largest credit bureau, admitted that there is no demonstrated link between someone’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”
“How can you get out of debt, if you can’t get a job, or if you’re fired from your job for having debt? This bill is just basic common sense. Credit checks for employment purposes hurt people in low-income entry positions and professionals. In this economy, where hardly anyone has escaped with his or her credit history untouched, it is an unfair practice,” said Council Member Debi Rose, Chair of the Civil Rights Committee, which convened today’s hearing. “I am also very concerned about the potentially disparate impact of this practice on protected classes. Today’s hearing will help clarify the need for the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act.”
“Credit checks by employers punish workers for circumstances that may be completely unrelated to their ability to do their jobs, and that’s just wrong. Too many New Yorkers have fallen on hard times because of the death of a family member, catastrophic medical expenses, or predatory lending, and as a result now have poor credit. Punishing these individuals for circumstances beyond their control doesn’t help our economy grow—it only perpetuates an injustice and inequality in the workforce. Intro. 857 is critical for the future of our workforce and I urge its quick passage in the City Council,” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.
“Discrimination based on one’s credit history has no place in our city” said Council Member Leroy Comrie. “Intro. 857 will make it unlawful for employers to base hiring decisions on an individual’s credit history. In these tough economic times, we have to make sure that everyone has an equal chance to secure a job, and eliminating this barrier is a step in the right direction.”
“Too many students are taking out debt for college to get a job, only to learn that that very debt can keep them from getting a job,” said Council Member Garodnick. “Credit history can mean any number of things, but it is not a reliable indicator of future job performance.”
“As a lender, we are well aware of the inaccuracies in credit reports. That’s one of the reasons we don’t use them as factors in hiring decisions,” said Linda Levy, CEO of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.
“I don’t want to be penalized when I graduate because I’ve had to take on debt to pay for my education,” said Roselle Stephens, a BMCC student and member of the BMCC Student Government Association. “It’s shameful that employers use your credit history supposedly to judge your character.”
“Credit checks discriminate against New Yorkers who are already facing barriers to
employment. Intro. 857 will effectively eliminate this discrimination in New York City,”
said Lincoln Restler, Managing Director of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition.
With 35 bill sponsors, Intro. 857 has strong veto-proof support in the NYC Council.
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The NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment includes more than 55 community, labor, civil rights, legal services and student organizations. For more information, visit www.creditcatch22.org.