The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 49 other organizations submitted a letter to the Senate this week in support of a bill – called the Equal Employment for All Act – that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D. Mass., will introduce next week.
The bill addresses a challenge faced by many job-seekers today: credit checks as a condition of employment. But as the letter points out, requiring credit checks is a needless invasion of privacy that discriminates against the long-term unemployed and has a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color and people with disabilities.
“During the housing boom, borrowers of color were frequently steered into subprime (or high-interest) loans even though they actually qualified for a prime loan,” the letter states. “As a result, since the crash, African-American, Latino and Asian-American households have lost more than 50 percent of their family wealth – exactly the assets that workers draw on during emergencies to avoid debt. This compares to a 16 percent loss among white households.”
Credit checks also plunge job seekers into a catch-22 scenario where those who have fallen behind on payments because they are unemployed have a more difficult time getting hired, which only makes it more likely that they’ll continue to fall behind on bills. And importantly, many of these job seekers (13 million) lost their job during the recession through no fault of their own. Others were exploited by unregulated predatory lending ahead of the financial crisis.
“Employment credit checks are thus compounding historic injustices and recent weak regulatory oversight,” according to the letter, “ensuring that similarly-qualified job seekers cannot compete on an even playing field.”