Legislation that awaits New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature would prohibit employers from checking the credit history of most job applicants, a practice that supporters say discriminates against minorities and the poor.
The bill, passed overwhelmingly on Thursday by the City Council, is considered one of the strongest bills of its kind already on the books around the country.
“There is no demonstrated correlation between people’s credit history and their likelihood to commit fraud or theft, or with their job performance,” said Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, the main sponsor. “It simply adds up to discrimination.”
A spokeswoman for the mayor expressed general support for the bill’s goals.
“Credit discrimination is often times an unnecessary obstacle to New Yorkers getting jobs, and we will continue to work with the City Council to help put more New Yorkers on pathways to jobs,” said Ishanee Parikh, who declined to say whether the mayor would sign the bill.
In a 2012 survey, the Society for Human Resource Management found 47 percent of employers conducted credit background checks on job candidates. The survey had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, plus or minus.
Ramon Lebron, 24, a student from Manhattan, welcomed the legislation, saying his credit history cost him a second interview for an IT position at a financial institution three years ago.
“They outright told me at the first interview it was going to be part of the process,” he said. “It’s an injustice.”
Ten states from Nevada to Vermont, as well as the city of Chicago, have laws limiting an employer’s ability to run credit checks on candidates.
Some allow checks for positions that come with a company credit card or for employees of financial institutions, but New York City’s bill makes no such exceptions, Lander’s office said.
The legislation would allow checks when mandated by federal or state law, and for certain jobs such as in law enforcement or non-clerical roles that give an employee access to trade secrets.
The business community expressed skepticism after the legislation was introduced last year for a second time. It argued it was too sweeping and fought for more exemptions.
Eventually, the Partnership for New York City, an umbrella group representing more than 200 large companies, dropped its opposition.
“The final legislation allows employers some discretion in use of credit checks,” Kathryn Wylde, its president and chief executive, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Frank McGurty and Mohammad Zargham)
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This article first appeared in Salon.
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