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Slamming Hiring Practices As Unfair, Leaders Call For Reform

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Slamming current hiring practices as unjust, area leaders are pushing for new city laws that would prevent employers from immediately asking about an applicant’s arrest history, as well as ban employment credit checks.

Prompted by the news that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that prevents employers from asking applicants about their criminal history early in the hiring process,  Councilman Jumaane Williams this week urged action on a similar piece of New York City legislation, known as the “Fair Chance Act.”

Introduced by Williams in April, Intro. 318 would bar businesses from inquiring if an applicant has been convicted of a crime until after a job offer has been made. This policy is already in place with city government positions, and the legislation, if passed, would not apply to jobs that require background checks.

If an employer discovers their prospective worker does have a criminal history, they would only be able to retract their officer if the conviction was related to the job, or it posed an undue risk to the business. Employers could face being slapped with a $1,000 fine if they inquire about a criminal record before a job offer.

The legislation is an attempt to address dramatically high unemployment rates for ex-offenders, which various studies have found hover around 50 percent. In addition to Williams, other city leaders, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James, have noted that the difficulties ex-offenders face finding work often result in high rates of recidivism.

“It is time New York City joins the ranks of more than 10 states and 60 cities, most recently New Jersey, to give all applicants a fair chance at employment,” Williams said in a statement to the media. “Having a past conviction should not prevent someone from being able to put food on the table or pay their rent.

The Fair Chance Act “ensures that all New Yorkers, including those who have become stigmatized because of previous convictions, will have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs they qualify for,” continued Williams, who said he hopes “to have a hearing on this bill as soon as possible so that New York City can become the next city to enact this important legislation.”

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Other lawmakers this week also called for employment reform, gathering with students and members of what is called the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment outside Brooklyn College to call on the City Council to ban the credit checks that they said in a press release “constitute an unfair barrier to jobs for students saddled with student loan debt.”

Intro. 261, otherwise known as the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, was also introduced in April and would prohibit the use of credit history for hiring and other employment-related purposes throughout the five boroughs.

“Employers should not deny people jobs based on their credit history,” Councilman Brad Lander, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a press release. “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 currently has 39 sponsors, and supporters are hoping statements Mayor Bill de Blasio made during his run for office are indicative of his ultimate approval, including his campaign website calling employment credit checks a “needless roadblock to economic opportunity.”

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Speakers outside Brooklyn College stressed the role that the national credit reporting industry plays in “driving employment credit checks to expand markets and boost profits,” the press release said.

“The credit reporting agencies are part of a powerful industry that has carved out a new profit niche by marketing and selling people’s credit reports to employers,” said Joby Thoyalil, campaigns organizer at New Economy Project. “This is despite the fact that TransUnion, one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus, admitted that there is no demonstrated link between someone’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”

“It’s disgraceful to think that students in New York could be excluded from the very jobs they’re studying to qualify for just because they face difficulties keeping up with student loans and other bills,” said Amy Traub, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos. “It’s time for New York City to stop employers from judging job applicants based on their personal credit information and get rid of this barrier to employment once and for all.”

Photos via the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. WHAT CROCK.
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    I’m so sick of people not being able to TAKE RESPONSIBLITY for their own actions.
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    If you’ve been to prison (which is different from “jail” btw) chances are you probably belong there. Sure, there have been cases where people are wrongfully convicted – but that is not true for the majority of the prison population.
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    If you’ve served your time AND have made efforts to change your life FOR THE BETTER – you should be able to explain yourself to the interviewer and be proud of that fact. I would be more than willing to take that into consideration.
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    But if you’re a serial convict/repeat offender and/or convicted of a violent crime, NO EFFING WAY. I honestly believe employers SHOULD be able to do their due dilligence before hiring someone! Are these people insane?!
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    And regarding credit checks – I agree with TransUnion – I don’t think there’s a link between someone’s credit report and likelihood to commit fraud. BUT – if they’re not going to be responsible with their finances, it makes me wonder if they are going to be responsible with their job.

  2. I’m all for personal responsibility, but we have to realize that there could be a prejudice or even just an unconscious bias even against people who’ve been rehabilitated.

    A fair chance for someone who’s paid his dues to society and now wants to earn his own living as an honest man is a good thing, think of Cutty from ‘The Wire’. Otherwise if an ex-convict doesn’t stand a chance of being in gainful employment ever again, that man has no hope.

  3. When my parents split up, I took over my sister’s student loans temporarily in addition to my own in order to keep her loans out of default. I was turned down from jobs at two law firms based on my credit report that showed me carrying her debt. I had stellar references and my skills tests were off the charts, but I was denied employment. My credit report reflected the current status of, and timely payment of my loans. One firm told me they didn’t like to hire people who “needed the money too much.” Credit scores are simply not an accurate measure of responsibility because they penalize the assumption of debt of any kind: even that of a family member.

    These bills are about getting people to the interview. Most employers and staffing agencies cull out those applicants w/ so-called negative credit and criminal histories BEFORE the interview.

  4. Some of the explanations provided in the above statement don’t even make sense. If a student comes out of school and has been saddled with debt, it does not adverse their credit history. If on the other hand the person has an extended time after school of missing payments without cause, then things decline. Taking credit, even as a student, should mean you understand what you’re doing as you are considered an adult when entering the contract. If you go in knowing that without employment post graduation will cause you to default, you must decide to exceed in your studies and choose field in which you are a viable candidate for employment. People often elect subjects that have little value to employers and complain about all the saddled debt they owe. This is simple the young persons fault and the consequence of their decisions. Whats next? Banks can’t check credit history as it would prevent someone who wishes to turn their life around the opportunity? Sorry, but you have seven years to think that one over.

    Some employers might not be able to hire a person with a prior violent offence on their record. It opens the company to endless liability and they should be well aware of the facts before making a decision. These blanket rules are written by people who have far too little understanding employment market needs and requirements.

    For the company I work for, if a candidate had existing or past debt to gambling in various casinos, it would be a major conflict of interest for us for many of our projects. Not to mention the possibility to spoil an business relationship if the incident is more egregious than the debt alone.

    I wish there was a happy ending for everyone, but I have yet to ever read about moment of history where that was true. We really need to get back to allowing adversity to exist to simply allow a person decide what they may do in response. Some will get up on move forward, others will not. Its an important part of development and we seem to endlessly run to protect people from any consequences for ‘potential damage’. While we have to become more adept at recognizing disabilities that hold back some, we also have to allow those who are simply lacking in character to fail. Just maybe they can learn to accept that result and build upon it. True determination will show. Almost anyone can see it when they look and someone will if its there.

    Rant complete, thank you very much.

  5. On the other hand, if a felon has no hope of ever being able to run a normal life after his sentence is served, where he can lawfully provide for himself and his family, that makes a mockery of the very idea that detention should have a purpose of rehabilitating the individual. It basically ensures that such man is gonna go back to a life of crime.

    Clearly, child molesters shouldn’t work at a daycare, and thieves and robbers shouldn’t be trusted with other people’s money, etc. even when they get out of detention, but realistically a large number of people are doing time for drug related offenses. Someone who got busted for slinging, and who now by definition is doing the right thing (applying for a legit job) shouldn’t pose a problem for the employer of many, or possibly most, of the realistically low-level jobs he can aspire to.

    Same goes for bankruptcy. Again, I wouldn’t put bad credit people in charge of making investment decisions or cashflow management, but there’s no reason I can think of why they couldn’t do most other jobs well and without detriment to their employers.

  6. Then you are essentially in agreement that the blanket level restriction this proposed law provides isn’t correct and companies should be permitted to a return in query in convictions for certain specific violations, as it pertains to the specific job application. I would also agree that beyond law enforcement, certain convictions should expire from query after predetermined time, based on the type of conviction.

    Lets be clear, a case where a convicted child molester applies to be a school bus driver is a big old reg flag the operating company should be able to inquire. Credit history on the other hand isn’t any of their business, they aren’t providing him a shiny new plastic card. There are terms I agree with and I am a proponent of right to privacy in logical terms, but some things must be kept on public record.

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