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Queens Ledger: Students Fight to Keep Credit Checks Out of the Hiring Process

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By Chase Collum

Queens College students held a rally last week on the campus to garner further City Council support for a two-year-old fight to stop credit checks as part of the employment process in New York City.

“Unlike the challenges students face in the classroom that help us move forward, the use of credit checks in employment does nothing but hold us back,” said Aileen Sheil, a Queens College student. “With the rising cost of tuition, and the growing dependence on debt to pay for school, students can hardly afford another hurdle.”

The students were calling on the City Council to quickly pass a bill introduced by Brad Lander and Debi Rose on April 10 to stop the use of credit checks within the city for the purposes of hiring, firing, or promotion, except in cases where state or federal law requires them. 

Council members Costa Constantinides, Peter Koo and Daniel Dromm joined the students at the rally, with each vowing support. 

“Many leave school having incurred student loan and credit card debt as a necessary means to receiving their education,” Koo said. “And what we are finding is that, because of their debt, they have a hard time securing employment due to the practice of debt discrimination.” 

One of the key issues brought up at the press conference is the lack of a discoverable link between credit score and employee effectiveness.

“TransUnion, one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus, has publicly admitted that there is no demonstrated link between someone’s credit report and their job performance,” said Joby Thoyalil, a campaign organizer for the New Economy Project.

Tashi Lhewa, staff attorney in the Queens office of the Legal Aid Society, added “credit reports are not designed as employment screening tools and are woefully inaccurate. There is absolutely no evidence connecting credit reports and job performance, and employment credit checks have a disproportionately negative impact on minority, immigrant and low-income households.”

Oneika O’Kieffe, a member of the Retail Action Project, has personally felt the effects of credit checks in the hiring process when she was seeking a job after graduation. 

“My managers have always trusted me and I have never been fired,” O’Kieffe said. “I incurred debt from my student loans because I was trying to advance my career. My debt has nothing to do with how I do my job.”