Letter to Mayor de Blasio and Members of the City Council: Enact The Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act

Letter to Mayor de Blasio and Members of the City Council: Enact The Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act

January 15, 2015
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Dear Mayor de Blasio and Members of the City Council:

As leaders in New York City who are concerned about economic and racial injustice, we call on you to enact Intro. 261, The Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, and to ensure that this legislation does not include unjustified exemptions. The common practice of using credit checks to screen job applicants creates illegitimate barriers to employment, exacerbates racial discrimination, and may lead to invasions of privacy.

Nearly half of employers in the United States conduct employment credit checks when hiring for some or all positions. In New York City, credit checks are required for jobs as diverse as dog walkers, insurance salespeople, maintenance workers, and cashiers at major retail chains, in addition to many other positions. Yet despite the widespread use of employment credit checks, there is no empirical evidence that reviewing personal credit history when hiring produces a more reliable, honest, or trustworthy workforce.

At the same time, using credit history in hiring can disproportionately screen out people of color from job opportunities. This occurs because, on average, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to struggle with weak credit than white consumers. There are many reasons for this disparity: in New York and throughout the country, predatory lending has targeted communities of color for deceptive mortgages that ruin household credit. The nation’s growing racial wealth gap also leaves people of color with fewer resources to draw on in times of need, even as the impact of racial discrimination persists in employment, education, and in housing. All of this makes people of color more likely to face financial difficulties and have poor credit as a result. Employment credit checks fuel this racial injustice, shutting people out of jobs even as they struggle with debt.

While people of color are harmed the most, New Yorkers from every community in the city are vulnerable to credit discrimination, whether they are dealing with medical bills, student loans, a layoff, divorce, identity theft, or simply the very common problem of having an error in their credit report. Research from the public policy organization Dēmos finds that poor credit is commonly associated with a lack of health coverage and medical debt as well as with household unemployment. The unemployed are especially susceptible to a vicious cycle: job-seekers can’t get work because of their damaged credit and then they can’t repay their debts and improve their credit because they can’t get a job. It’s a trap no New Yorker should have to contend with.

The reality is that credit reports are a financial product, initially developed to help lenders evaluate the risks of making a loan to a particular consumer. In recent years, for-profit credit reporting companies have sought new markets for credit reports, aggressively promoting them to employers as a method to assess a job applicant’s character or propensity to commit fraud or theft. It makes sense that employers would seek such a predictive tool: yet the promise of credit checks is false. There is no proven link between personal credit reports and criminal conduct or job performance.

In an effort to combat credit discrimination, ten states (CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, MD, NV, OR, VT, and WA) have
taken action to restrict the use of personal credit history in hiring. Yet all of these laws fall short, including carve-outs and exemptions that allow discrimination to persist for some positions – effectively setting a ceiling on opportunity or shutting workers out of the very industries they may have trained for. In some cases, exemptions are so vague and far-reaching that credit checks are allowed to persist for every position. Legislation passed by the New York State Assembly (A.7056) and introduced by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (the Equal Employment for All Act S.1837) provides a model for the type of strong bill that would ban credit discrimination without unjustified exemptions, but neither bill has been signed into law. This leaves New York City with an opportunity to be a national leader in banning discrimination. New York City is ready: Mayor de Blasio has called the practice of denying jobs because of credit history “unacceptable” and 41 members of the City Council have already signed on to Intro. 261 in its current, strong form.

We call on New York to enact the strongest protection in the nation against credit discrimination by passing Intro. 261 without exemptions.

Sincerely,*

Heather McGhee, President, Dēmos
Vincent Alvarez, President, New York City Central Labor Council
Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37 – AFSCME
Sarah Ludwig, Founder and Co-Director, New Economy Project
Letitia James, New York City Public Advocate
Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
Liz Krueger, New York State Senator
Jesse Hamilton, New York State Senator
Karim Camara, New York State Assemblymember
Michael Blake, New York State Assemblymember
Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union
David R. Jones, President & CEO, Community Service Society
Héctor Figueroa, President, Service Employees International Union 32BJ
Gregory Floyd, President, Teamsters Local 237
Arthur Cheliotes, Union President, Communications Workers of America 1180
Bob Master, Legislative & Political Director, Communications Workers of America District One Lillian Roberts, Former Director, District Council 37 – AFSCME
Ernest Logan, President, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators
Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange.org
Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Bill Lipton, Director, Working Families Party
Valerie Ervin, Executive Director, Center for Working Families
Rebecca Weber, Executive Director, New York Public Interest Research Group
Gara LaMarche, President, Democracy Alliance
Ellen Lippmann, Rabbi, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives
Jonathan Westin, Executive Director, New York Communities for Change
Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project

Jeanette Zelhof, Executive Director, MFY Legal Services, Inc. Sasha Hammad, Director, Retail Action Project
Sondra Youdelman, Executive Director, Community Voices Heard Onleilove Alston, Interim Executive Director, Faith in NY

Christie Peale, Executive Director, Center for NYC Neighborhoods Tenzing Chadotsang, Interim Executive Director, Chhaya CDC
Andrew Friedman, Co-Executive Director, Center for Popular Democracy Linda Levy, CEO, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union

Chris Shelton, Vice President, Communications Workers of America District One Matt Ryan, Executive Director, ALIGN
Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director, Brooklyn Movement Center

Doug Lasdon, Executive Director, Urban Justice Center
Jennifer Flynn, Executive Director, VOCAL-NY
Michelle Neugebauer, Executive Director, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director, Fifth Avenue Committee
Marjorie Dove Kent, Executive Director, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
Aaron Shiffman, Executive Director, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations
Sam Massol, Executive Director, BridgeRoots
Rolando Bini, Executive Director, Parents In Action
Margaret Stix, Principal, Lookout Hill/Jobs First New York City
Sharon Sewell-Fairman, Executive Director, Workforce Professionals Training Institute
Marie Wiggins, Executive Director, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York
Harvey Epstein, Director - Community Development Project, Urban Justice Center
Amy Traub, Senior Policy Analyst, Dēmos
Tamara Draut, Vice President - Policy and Research, Dēmos
Lucy Mayo, Senior Vice President - Operations, Dēmos
Tashi Lhewa, Consumer Attorney, The Legal Aid Society
Gregory Lobo Jost, Deputy Director for Research and Policy, University Neighborhood Housing Program Donna Dougherty, Attorney-in-Charge, Jewish Association Serving the Aging/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens
Alyssa Aguilera, Political Director, VOCAL-NY
Edward Rush, Legislative Director, Working Families Party
Pete Sikora, NYS Legislative/Political Director, Communications Workers of America District One
Jaime Weisberg, Senior Campaign Analyst, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development
Imelba Rodriguez, Senior Program Director, Bridge Street Development Corporation
Matthew Schedler, Supervising Attorney, CAMBA Legal Services
Stephanie Haas, Director of Development, College and Community Fellowship
Dorian T. Warren, Associate Professor/Fellow, Columbia University/Roosevelt Institute
Micah Gertzog, City University of New York
Robert Medlock, Senior Advisor, Consortium For Worker Education
Lowell Herschberger, Director of Career and Education Programs, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation

Mia Wilson, Career Prep Program Director, Grace Outreach
Diana Valencia, Hostos College
Marjorie Parker, Deputy Executive Director, Jobs First NYC
Latoya Cameron, Employment Service, Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center/Borough of Manhattan Community College
Paul Sonn, General Counsel, National Employment Law Project

Mitchell Hirsch, Access and Opportunity Advocate, National Employment Law Project
Sarah Leberstein, Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project
Haeyoung Yoon, Deputy Program Director, National Employment Law Project
Nicholas Napolitano, Assistant for Social Ministries, New York Province of the Society of Jesus
Annie Garneva, Policy and Communications Associate, NYC Employment and Training Coalition
Aileen Sheil, Chairperson, New York Public Interest Research Group
Leah Hebert, Director of Public Relations, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
Anna Dioguardi Moyano, Director - Organizing and Community Development, Queens Community House Reshmi Sengupta, Director of Programs, Sakhi for South Asian Women
Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union 32BJ
Lenore Friedlaender, Assistant to the President, Service Employees International Union 32BJ
Liz Hoagland, Senior Manager of Education and Workforce Development, Stanley Isaacs Center
LuAnne Blaauboer, Manager of Workforce Development, Stanley Isaacs Center
Michele Knox, Work Readiness Instructor, The Hope Program
Robin Wilson, Director Financial Fitness, Urban Upbound
Sharon McDonald, Participant - WEN Program, YWCA-NYC

*Organization affiliation is for identification purposes only.