As of today, New Yorkers’ personal finances are none of their bosses’ business. Today Local Law 37, prohibiting discrimination based on consumer credit history, goes into effect. As a result, employers can no longer ask employees or job applicants to undergo a credit check to get a job—or keep one—except in certain very restricted circumstances.
I’ve written at length about why New York needs this law: how employment credit checks are a serious barrier to economic security for job applicants who may have flawed credit due to unemployment, lack of health coverage, student loans, or simple errors in their credit report. I’ve noted that credit reports don't have real value to employers as they cannot reveal whether someone would be a trustworthy, reliable, or hard-working employee. And I’ve noted how employment credit checks disproportionately harm people of color, who are more likely to have poor credit as a result of predatory lending that continues to target communities of color, as well as the enduring impact of racial discrimination in employment, lending, education, and housing.
Now what’s left is enforcement. Here’s how the New York City Commission on Human Rights, tasked with implementing the law, explains the new rights of employees and job seekers:
Employers cannot run a credit check on you or hire another company to perform a credit check on you. If an employer asks you to sign a document so it can check your credit, it is breaking the law. Employers cannot use consumer reporting agencies or third party companies, services, and websites to examine your credit history.
Employers also cannot ask about your payment history or credit worthiness, credit standing, or how much credit you have. That includes credit card debt, child support, student loans, foreclosures, missed or late payments, bankruptcies, judgments, and liens. This law applies whether you are currently working or looking for a job.
Your credit cannot be the reason you are fired, not hired, or not promoted. Under the NYC Human Rights Law, employers are prohibited from considering credit when making employment decisions about current or potential employees.
Demos is proud to have worked with allies at the New Economy Project, NYPIRG, DC 37, RWDSU, legal services groups throughout the city, and many other organizations to help make this legislation a reality. We congratulate NYC Council Member Brad Lander and the bill’s other co-sponsors for helping to stamp out an insidious form of discrimination.
What if your apply for a job and are asked to authorize a credit check? If an employer conducts an employment credit check in violation of the law, employees and job applicants can call 311 and ask for the Commission on Human Rights. As the Commission notes: “we can help you recover lost wages and other damages, and we can fine the employer for breaking the law.”
Local Law 37 was the result of more than three years of work by Demos and New York City Council members to prohibit discrimination based on consumer credit history: