Lawmakers: Credit history shouldn’t keep you from a job

Lawmakers: Credit history shouldn’t keep you from a job

SALEM, Ore. - Some Oregon state lawmakers don’t want employers checking the credit history of prospective employees because they say there is no study that shows a job applicant’s credit history and job performance are linked.

“With this massive unemployment - with people out of work for over a year or more and very few jobs to apply for, it is an unnecessary hurdle for people’s personal credit history to be used as an obstacle to finding employment,” says Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland.

If the plan, proposed by Democrats passes, Oregon will join Washington and Hawaii, which are states that have similar laws.

Some lawmakers think keeping employers out of a job applicant’s credit past will help people like 27-year-old Josh Norwood. He’s buried under $6,000 of debt and may have to declare bankruptcy unless he can find a job where his credit report doesn’t matter.

Norwood stopped paying his bills eight months ago when he lost his job and he and his new wife are now stuck living with his mother. He says he can’t get a job because of his credit score.

“If you’re out of work, you can’t pay your bills,” he says. “You get bad credit like me and there’s a lot of good people being affected by it, and it’s just not fair. I didn’t have bad credit until I didn’t have a job, so it’s kind of bogus. I mean, I have great qualifications. So I didn’t see why they wouldn’t want to hire a great employee because of their credit.”

Recently, Norwood wanted a job at Plaid Pantry so bad he wore a suit to the interview.

He has no criminal history, lots of experience, has been working since he was 14, and thought he had landed the job.

“Then I got a call back 20 to 30 minutes later and said it was a ‘no go’ because of my credit,” he says.

Jim Markee, who is a lobbyist for TransUnion which is one of the country’s three largest credit scoring agencies, says businesses use an applicant’s credit report to guard against fraud and identity theft.

“We think employers use these tools with discretion. We think their judgment is going to be the best judgment for their business and future employees.

Norwood says he’s happy lawmakers are considering the ban.

“I’m thrilled about it. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late for my case, because there’s been plenty of jobs where you fill out the application and they tell you they do background checks and credit checks, and I’m like ‘can’t do that now.’”

For privacy reasons a spokesman for Plaid Pantry couldn’t say why Norwood was not hired, the spokesman says someone’s credit is a small piece of the decision to hire someone, however.
Statistics show that almost 60 percent of all employers nationwide use credit history as a way to screen job applicants at some point in the hiring process.