Workers need opportunity, not credit check roadblocks

Stuart Appelbaum | 3/5/2015, 10:28 a.m.

Far too many New Yorkers are struggling to survive and are desperate for jobs so they can support themselves and their families. But nowadays, applying for a job can mean an invasive credit check, and prospective employment can hinge on an applicant’s credit history.

It’s not only an invasion of privacy, it’s a form of discrimination that affects job seekers in Black and Latino communities. It perpetuates a cycle of unemployment, poverty and debt. By tying job applicants’ hopes to their credit history, those who need employment the most are being denied the opportunity to build better lives.

That’s why there is legislation currently being considered by the New York City Council that would ban credit checks on job applicants by employers. It has strong support in the City Council, and it has our support as well. Banning credit checks across all industries, without exemptions except where required by law, would be a key move in helping build stronger communities and reducing unemployment.

Credit history doesn’t determine job performance, and it isn’t a true arbiter on whether someone will be a good or trustworthy employee. Just having debt can lower someone’s credit score whether it was accrued to pay for an education, medical bills or unforeseen events. Debt is a part of life for many of us, and it’s not fair to hold that against people who are trying to get a job. Denying people who are trying to repay their debts the opportunity to work defies logic.

With the current crisis of income inequality and the need to make our economy work again for working people, the last thing working people need is to be slammed by credit checks from potential employers. 

New York has been a place of opportunity, hope and upward mobility for generations. By passing credit check legislation, we can help keep it that way.