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Lander Calls for End to Credit Discrimination

Employers should look at an applicant's character, not their credit score, Lander said.

Should shaky credit history be a basis for denying a job to a qualified candidate? According to Councilman Brad Lander, the answer is a resounding "no."

Lander, D-Park Slope, along with Councilman James Sanders, Jr., D-Queens, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would prohibit employers from running credit checks on job applicants, calling it "discrimination."

“At a time of continued economic hardship, employers should not deny people jobs based on their credit history,” Lander said. “Whether from catastrophic medical expenses, death of a spouse, or predatory lending, many New Yorkers have poor credit through little or no fault of their own.  Recent graduates with spiraling student debt need an equal chance to get a job, if they are ever going to pay it off. This bill is a step forward for fairness, and for common sense.” 

The bill, called the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, would also restrict the use of credit checks for promotions, demotions or compensation decisions.

Currently, 60 percent of employers use credit checks to assess potential hires, a system that Lander calls a Catch-22: How can an applicant pay off debts if they can't get a job in the first place?

Organizations from around the city also weighed in, saying that employers should consider an applicant's interview and references over a credit score.

“A credit score tells you nothing about a person’s character or how they’ll perform on the job”, said Johnson Tyler, an attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Services, based in Cobble Hill. “All it tells you is that the applicant fell on hard times.

According to the New York State Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in New York City was at 9.7 percent as of March.

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