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The Long Shadow of Bad Credit in a Job Search

The New York Times

Mr. Panesso was rejected for jobs at several more big national retail chains. But J. Crew, he said, was the only business to send him an adverse action letter. Did that mean the others rejected his application for other reasons? It’s impossible to know for sure.

Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at the liberal-leaning policy group Demos, and the author of “Discredited: How Employment Credit Checks Keep Qualified Workers Out of a Job,” a report released in March, says that the law requiring an adverse action letter is rarely enforced. “We found that many employers don’t” send them, Ms. Traub said.

Mr. Panesso now picks up odd jobs when he can find them. “Quite frankly,” he said, “I gave up.”

ALFRED CARPENTER, the shoe salesman, can relate. Now a fit man in his 50s, he lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where he grew up. After graduating with a two-year associate’s degree from Kingsborough Community College, he worked his way up in the shoe business, landing at Ferragamo. In a good year, he said, he would earn $60,000 to $70,000.

Critics also have the testimony of the TransUnion official who told the Oregon Legislature in 2010, “We don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”

“As a researcher, I’d like to think that if about half of all employers are doing this, they must have some real evidence that it’s valuable,” said Ms. Traub of Demos. “But in this case that evidence is really lacking.”

MR. CARPENTER finally landed a job at the end of 2011. He caught a break after he confided his troubles to a friend in the shoe business. The friend, too, had credit problems but had found work at a Manhattan shoe store. Mr. Carpenter secured a job there and, last fall, he moved to another store where the pay was better. “I’m happy,” he said, but he also feels shellshocked.