Credit reports weren’t designed to be job-screening tools. But about half of employers now use them when making hiring decisions, according to a 2012 study by the Society for Human Resource Management. The practice cuts across all sectors of the economy, from high-level management to office assistants, home health-care aides, and people who work the counter serving frozen yogurt.
That’s troubling because the information contained in a credit report doesn’t necessarily say much about a person’s ability to perform at work. The progressive think tank Demos, which published a report on employer credit checks in May, found that people who have bad credit are more likely to have somebody their household who is out of work, lack health insurance, or have unpaid medical debt. Demos argues that difficult economic circumstances isn’t a good—or fair—reason to deny a job to a qualified person.
A growing number of states and cities are starting to buy that argument. Last month, Nevada became the 10th state—joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, Washington—to ban employers from running a credit check on a prospective hire. Nevada’s law, which goes into effect in October, allows applicants who find out their prospective employers used their credit information to deny them a job to sue the company and force it to hire them.