The Los Angeles Times recently reported on a new bill headed to Governor Schwarzenegger for possible signature (though I believe it is likely to be vetoed) generally prohibiting California employers from requiring applicants to allow them to examine their credit report as part of the application process.
The new California employment law would allow employers to do checks on employees who handle large amounts of money or other sensitive positions. While I recognize that in these situations there may be some correlation between a history of poor financial choices and the ability to do certain jobs, in today’s economy the usefulness of this information is, in my opinion, declining at the same time employers’ use of it as a hiring tool seems to be increasing.
I talk to potential clients every day with tragic stories of loss about being unemployed for months while desperately searching for new employment. Many of these people are about to lose their homes, have had their automobiles repossessed and even have experienced the demoralizing reality of sending their children off to college this fall without being able to give them any assistance with their tuition or living expenses.
When I hear from these people that their recent poor credit history, which itself is usually a direct result of either unemployment or serious illness, is now the reason they cannot find a job, it makes me angry. The problem is that many of these employers now receive dozens, if not hundreds of applications for a handful of positions, so the applicant never gets a chance to explain their situation before they are eliminated early in the process based solely on their credit report.
Studies have shown in the past that the average employee’s credit scores has no correlation with their job performance, but as a matter of public policy I think that when unemployment is in the double-digits throughout much of California this is an issue that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.