Credit Ratings Perpetuating Poverty

How things can change in eight years is amazing. Being outside of the United States for that long really shielded me from many of the issues that have grown, and started to loom, over the years.

Imagine my surprise when my boyfriend at the time, while reading forums about job prospects for immigrants in the United States, found that many people on the forum, not just immigrants, had been denied employment due to their not bad, but lack of, credit history; and then last night over Christmas gift opening one of my brothers mentioned how last year he had been denied a job because of his poor credit history.

Let me get this straight.

If you lose your job and have a difficult time finding a new one, get chronically ill, or fall on some bad luck, and are unable to pay your bills on time for a few months, therefore degrading your credit rating, then you will have a harder time finding a job? If you are homeless, below the poverty level ,or new to this country - meaning you probably don't have much of a credit history to being with - then you have a less positive outlook for gaining employment, or bettering your economic stature? Let's be honest, with the unemployment rate, and financial and economic climate of the United States, many of these unfortunate situations are entirely plausible.

That sounds like a dangerous downward spiral, if you ask me; but then, I'm no expert.

The arguments for a credit rating check do, of course, hold some water, but in a bucket full of holes.

Yes, the ability to carry a good credit rating can be an indication of the level of responsibility and maturity of a human being, theoretically making them a good, or better, candidate for the job; however, sometimes life throws you a curve ball - the realities of life and government - and when forced to prioritize bills, chances are water, heat, electricity and food (survival) will come before a credit card payment (not survival), even though the default of a credit card payment will be detrimental to your credit rating much more quickly, because credit card companies are likely quicker to take action on bills in default than are utility companies.

So how many employers are actually checking credit? In 2006 the Society for Human Resource Management, "the largest association devoted to human resource management", polled its members and had found that since 1998 there has been an 18% increase in the amount of companies/members who do credit checks (1). According to a survey by EmployeeScreenIQ, credit checks by companies had gone up by 61% between 2011 and 2012 (2). Though some organizations will allow you to explain the situation in regards to your poor credit, if you are an adequate candidate, not all may be willing to do so.

It's not the people working at McDonalds, the guy bagging your groceries, or pumping your gas that have been, and are, hugely affected by this; it's nurses, accountants, managers, supervisors, professional people who, before the economic downturn, held jobs with responsibility and good pay, who lost their jobs and have struggled with lower paying jobs over the last few years to make basic ends meet, who fall short of being able to make credit card payments, or have been forced into unemployment. It is mainly these people who are now being denied jobs because they are not deemed mature, or responsible enough to be a manager; a bank teller, or work in a banking or lending institution as an accountant, a supervisor, or in an executive position; jobs involving security; government jobs even at state and local levels, even in some cases jobs in Universities. Basically any job where you will have access to funds, the personal or business information of an employer, it's employees and/or customers.

There is a perception that because someone can't handle their own money, or you have a lot of debt (for some companies that cut off mark is around $5000), they are more likely to mishandle business funds, steal, defraud, embezzle from the company, or commit identity fraud; which if you ask us is ridiculous - any person, at any income level, is just as likely to perform any of those actions. If anything an employee with some debt, who wants to improve their credit rating, would make a better employee, because they need income to be able to improve their rating.

The important thing to note is that they cannot request your information without written consent, all requests to view your credit report are logged on the report. Basically they can't secretly access a credit report and deny employment without permission front he perspective employee or record of the action. Of course if you deny them access to the information if they ask, you can guarantee you won't be getting the job. While credit inquiries account for 10% of your credit score, some information located indicated that credit checks from employers are considered "soft inquiries", and do not effect your rating.

The good news is that there are six states currently with new laws restricting the use of credit ratings in hiring, but that doesn't mean they can't still run credit checks though, the states of Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington (3) passed laws the end of last year restricting the practice in certain industries; and currently there are about a dozen additional states with legislation proposed and pending. Believe it or not there are actually law makers against restricting hiring based on credit reports; that means they want to make it harder for people to get jobs simply because of what might appear to be poor personal financial behavior and skills. For all the other states with no restrictions on the books, you can be denied a job for something as minor as manager of a small department store.

What's next? Medical records to make sure you're not sick too much, not "mentally ill", or have a history of health problems?

At the end of the day it's just discrimination, another loss of freedom, another marker on the road to stripping away opportunity, at the hands of the people voted into office, and the people who have authority. The trick will be if it deviates, it's never too late to turn back; it's all the more reason people should be more educated, and aware, of what the people they vote into any office really stand for. Let the actions of the elected/hopefuls, let their history, their standards for human rights and freedom, be used as a credit report to determine their ability to stand office and represent the people of the community, the states and our country.

Sources and Citation:

(1) 'How Bad Credit Can Cost You A Job' - Liza Pulliam Weston, MSN Money, 2009

(2) 'Survey Finds More Companies Credit-Checking Candidates' - John Zapp, May 16, 2011

(3) 'New California Credit Report Check Law Unnecessary and Confusing for Employers According to Safe Hiring Expert' - Tom Ahearn, ESR News Editor, December 29, 2011

'Use of Credit Information in Employment 2011 Legislation'- National Confrence of State Legislators', December 19, 2011

'No discriminating against applicants with bad credit in California' - Law Offices of Rheuban & Gresen, January 6, 2012

'New Credit Check Law Takes Affect' - HireRight, January 5, 2012

'What You Need To Know About Credit Inquiries' - LaToya Irby,,