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Local Progress is a network of hundreds of local elected officials from around the country committed to a strong economy, equal justice, livable cities, and effective government.

Employment Credit Check Ban

On Wednesday, September 19, 2015, New York City Councilmember Brad Lander and policy and campaign experts from Demos joined Local Progress for a webinar to explain the best policy practices and organizing lessons learned from NYC’s recent victory on the passing of the nation’s strongest ban on employment checks.

Why must an Employment Credit Check Ban be implemented?

Nationwide, qualified workers are unaware that they were turned down from a job because of their damaged personal credit history. People whose credit was damaged as a result of factors such as medical debt, unemployment, or predatory lending – find themselves caught in a vicious cycle: they cannot get jobs because of damaged credit, and are then they are unable to repay debts and improve their credit because they can’t get a job. The rationale for employers to run credit checks on their prospective employees is that credit reports prove their job performance and their sense of responsibility. This is not true. Even credit check industry lobbyists have publicly admitted the lack of statistical correlation between what is in someone’s credit report and their job performance or likelihood to commit fraud.

 

What can municipal leaders do?
  • Work with organizers and policy experts. Demos Senior Campaign Strategist Emmanuel Caicedo suggests teaming up with coalitions including community organizing groups and labor unions and business owners who do not use credit checks. Strength in numbers will help educate the public about the issue and build momentum. Simultaneously, work with progressive leaders to keep the dialogue about key decision points in the policy honest and consistent.
  • Use personal stories to strengthen effective talking points about the problem as well as highlight the proven lack of correlation between credit history checks and the likelihood of someone to commit fraud or theft. Additionally, op-eds can help to publicize the policy and its values.
  • To battle the opposition from the business community, negotiate. Tough and ongoing negotiation to limit exemptions is a crucial element to passing an effective bill. Many of the existing credit check bills at the state and local level have broad exemptions. The New York City bill is a good place to start as it is the strongest existing bill.
  • Connect this issue with college affordability and debt associated with homeownership. Many college students are stuck in debt because of college loans and many homeowners have underwater mortgages, thus damaging their credit score and ultimately their chances of being hired.
  • Emphasize the disproportionate discriminatory impact on people of color. Studies further show that employment credit checks are racially discriminatory because the factors that result in damaged credit scores such as high cost predatory loans, are targeted towards Black and Latino families. For support, look to politicians concerned about the racial and economic justice issue.
  • Be clear about the policy and principles. A lesson learned from NYC’s victory is that locality is important and there must be strong comprehension at the local level. For overview of outreach and training you can refer to this site on credit history and to this site for legal guidance. There are also more resources made available at the local level, which can help in the implementation of the policy.
Resources:
Media clippings:
NYC Campaign Materials:
Webinar Recording: