Employers wrong to check applicants credit

Employers rightfully ask a number of questions during their hiring and screening process. But while many parameters used to determine whether a potential employee is qualified for a position are fair and accurate, there are others that should certainly not be considered.

For most jobs, an applicant’s credit history is one of them.

On Aug. 10, Illinois passed a law severely limiting the ability of employers to perform credit checks on applicants, joining Hawaii and Washington state, as well as various federal officials, in questioning the practice.

A credit score reflects an individual’s past abilities to repay debts, so it’s appropriate for credit card companies or car dealers to check credit when making loans.

It seems that employers check credit scores because they believe it will accurately reveal an applicant’s level of responsibility, trustworthiness or personal character.

Superficially, this logic may make sense, but realistically it does not.

A person’s credit score can be affected by elements outside their direct control. Bad credit can result from a nasty divorce if the other spouse has procured debt in one’s name while married.

A poor credit score can also result from fraudulent activity that can be difficult to correct with the appropriate credit bureau, and an employer could still refuse to hire someone until the issue is resolved.

College graduates can spend years working hard to obtain their education, but debt incurred from that endeavor can also leave graduates with bad credit, which is merely the result of their struggle to survive and a testimonial to their resolve to graduate – not a stain on their character.

If companies are allowed to continue checking applicants’ credit scores before hiring, they could effectively contribute to a vicious cycle.

Individuals cannot improve their credit history if it prevents them from earning the necessary income to do so.

A person’s attitude and work ethic are totally independent of credit history. Someone could work extremely hard and be a model employee, but may have made a few financial mistakes or experienced a string of bad luck that has them living off credit cards or other temporary solutions that could adversely affect credit.

Even more disturbing is if a person hasn’t established a credit history due to not having credit cards or owing money, they too could be considered an untrustworthy and irresponsible person – when it could be logically argued that they’re more responsible.

Political leaders in Florida and those on the federal level need to join other states in lobbying against this ignorant and pretentious practice and push for laws that protect workers.