Elizabeth Warren at Banking Committee hearing, May 22, 2013
Paying attention to Americans' real needs again.
It is, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts says in an email, a small issue. But the Equal Employment for All Act would make a big difference for job-seeking Americans with poor credit ratings. The bill would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to stop employers from requiring or suggesting that applicants disclose their credit history and from procuring a consumer or investigative report. It also bars employers from disqualifying job seekers based on a poor credit rating or other
information on their creditworthiness.

Warren was joined in sponsoring the legislation by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Good for them. But it's pathetic that a bill has to introduced because employers continue to reject job applicants based on their credit scores despite the continuing fallout from the Great Recession. Currently, 4.1 million workers—the official undercount—are among the long-term unemployed, people whose credit scores might just be a tad dodgy after so long without a paycheck.

Even if the recession weren't a factor, it's grossly unfair to deny people a job based on their credit ratings, which, the Federal Trade Commission has noted, are often brimful of errors that require persistence to correct. Minorities and women are disproportionately affected. Warren says:

Much of America—hard-working, bill-paying America—has a damaged credit rating.

There are a lot of different reasons, but a lot of people just caught a bad break. They got sick. Their husband left or their wife died. They lost their job.

Problems only got worse after the financial crisis. Shrinking home prices made it impossible to sell or refinance a home. People lost their small businesses. Smaller savings left people without much cushion to ride out the tough times. People missed a payment or went into debt. [...]

It was once thought that credit history would provide insight into someone's character, and many companies routinely require credit reports from job applicants. But research has shown that an individual's credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone's abilities.

The Senate bill is based on H.R. 645, introduced in February by Democratic Rep. Stephen Cohen of Tennessee. That bill was referred to committee and never heard from again.

This ought to be a slam-dunk no-brainer. It ought to collect 50 co-sponsors immediately. But for too many people in both houses of Congress—people who, courtesy of the taxpayers, have jobs with good health insurance and credit ratings to match—the unreasonable obstacles job seekers encounter make no never-mind. They need a bevy of constituents ringing them up to give them a push.

You can become a citizen co-sponsor of Warren's bill by clicking here. If your senator isn't already backing that bill, give her or him a call to ask why not.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Massachusetts Kosmopolitans and Daily Kos.

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