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Sterling Employment Law

Should employers be able to check job applicants' credit scores?

If someone in Detroit were to buy a car, he or she would probably expect a credit check. The same goes for opening a new line of credit, obtaining a mortgage or taking out a loan. But what about applying for a job?

Some states have enacted employment laws meant to curb the ability of an employer to check the credit score of a job applicant. Employers say this is important because it provides insight into an applicant's judgment and responsibility, but critics say they do not like the idea of a future where a bad credit score could keep someone from a job that would allow them to earn the income necessary to get back in financial good standing.

One privacy expert also pointed out that a bad credit score is not indicative of job performance. Also, issues far beyond a person's control can mar a credit score. Think about how many people suffer financially after a divorce, or how many struggle financially to pay medical bills after an accident or on behalf of a loved one. In cases like that, a person's credit score arguably would not say anything about his or her character as a person.

Currently, California, Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii and Oregon have laws that restrict how and when employers can investigate an applicant's credit score. Oftentimes, they permit a credit score only to be checked when an applicant is seeking a job with managerial responsibility or access to confidential information, such as bank accounts or Social Security numbers.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think it is legitimate for employers to look into applicants' credit scores, or does that seem too much like an intrusion into someone's personal life?

Source: WHEC-TV Channel 10, "Some states working to block companies from checking credit scores of prospective employees," Jan. 3, 2012

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