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NYC bill would ban credit checks in hiring, firing

September 12, 2014 By Karen Matthews Associated Press
Brad Lander
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New York City Council members held a hearing Friday on a bill that would prevent companies from using credit checks in employment decisions, a practice that they said harms the very people who need jobs the most.

“We’re here today for the simple cause of fairness,” said Councilman Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor. “We want New Yorkers who apply for jobs or promotions to be judged by their qualifications and experience for the position, and not by whether they have enough money to pay their bills.”

The same legislation was introduced last year but did not pass.

It would seem likely to pass this year, with 40 of the Council’s 51 members signed on as sponsors, and a generally supportive Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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De Blasio’s counsel, Maya Wiley, told the hearing of the Council’s Civil Rights Committee that the administration believes “it is particularly important that we do not place senseless roadblocks in the path of residents who seek work to support themselves and their families.”

But Wiley said the de Blasio administration may support some exemptions to the credit check ban. She declined to specify which exemptions the mayor might support.

Ten states and the city of Chicago have passed laws restricting the use of credit histories in employment decisions, but all of the versions that have been enacted contain some exemptions.

Most of the states allow financial institutions to use credit checks for hiring decisions, and several states allow law enforcement agencies to use them, for example.

The New York City bill would allow credit checks only when mandated by state or federal law.

Lander said he would welcome testimony arguing for exemptions, but said he would press for evidence of any connection between credit history and job performance.

Several New Yorkers who said they had been turned down for jobs because of bad credit spoke at a rally prior to the hearing.

“My credit report does not represent who I am or what I’m capable of as a worker,” said Onieka O’Kieffe, who said student loan debt kept her from being hired as a department store manager.

Business leaders said employers should have the option of using credit checks.

“Credit checks are part of a due diligence process that is designed to protect consumers, which should certainly be a priority goal of the Council,” the Partnership for New York City said in comments submitted to the hearing.

Norm Magnuson, a spokesman for the Consumer Data Industry Association, said in a telephone interview that credit reports “are useful to employers, and they ought to have the data available to them to evaluate employees to the best of their ability.”

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