Labor-Community Coalition Celebrates Passage of Legislation Banning Employment Credit Checks

NYPIRG’s Armando Chapelliquen and others celebrate passage of Intro. 261, the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act. Check out more pictures from today’s event here.

NYC Council Passes Strongest Employment Credit Check Ban in the Nation

NEW YORK, N.Y., April 16, 2015  Today, members of the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment joined with working New Yorkers and City Council members in support of the passage of the “Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act,” a bill that will eliminate the unfair and discriminatory use of credit checks by employers in New York City.  The coalition of 79 community, labor, civil rights and student organizations have long fought for a ban on employment credit checks, insisting that they are an unjustified, discriminatory barrier to jobs, which disproportionately harm people of color. Members of the coalition, City Council members, and the New Yorkers harmed by employment credit checks all spoke out in support of the bill that will be the strongest such piece of legislation in the country.

“For too many New Yorkers there has been a vicious cycle. Their credit rating has been damaged when they have been unable to pay off the debts they have accumulated living in one of the most expensive cities in the world or receiving an education or covering an unexpected medical expense,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU. “They need jobs to pay off their debts, but their credit rating has prevented them from getting employed and they only fall further into debt. You need a job to pay off your debt, but then you can’t get a job because of the debt you already have. This law will help to break the cycle. It will give working people the opportunity to earn their way out of debt.”

“This vital civil rights law will remove a major barrier to employment opportunity for lower-income New Yorkers,” said Sarah Ludwig, Co-Director of New Economy Project, which coordinates the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment. “Credit reports reflect already-existing inequities in our credit system and in our economy. Using them in the employment context unjustly blocks qualified New Yorkers, particularly people of color, from much-needed jobs.”

City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Deborah Rose re-introduced the bill making it illegal to discriminate against job candidates based on their credit histories. The bill also restricts the use of credit checks for any promotion, demotion, or compensation decisions.

“Credit checks for employment unfairly lock New Yorkers out of jobs,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “So I’m proud that the Council is passing the strongest bill of its kind to end discriminatory employment credit checks. Just this week, we heard from a recently laid-off single mom, worried about finding a new job because of her daughter’s college loans on her credit report. She wrote that this law gives her ‘a new lease on life.’ Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito for consistently standing up for the most vulnerable New Yorkers, to Co-Sponsor Debi Rose and Chair Mealy, to my Council colleagues supporting this legislation, and to the de Blasio Administration for working with us to craft a strong, smart piece of legislation. Well-earned credit (and the kind you’d be happy to have anyone know about) also goes to the 70-member organizations of the NYC Coalition to Stop Credit Checks in Employment, including brave individuals who came forward to tell their stories, and who worked so hard to make this day happen.”

“As our City continues to recover from the greatest economic crisis of our lifetime, it is both unjust and counterproductive to deny otherwise qualified New Yorkers the very jobs that will improve their circumstances. We have a responsibility to expand opportunity, not stifle it. By prohibiting employers from using credit history against candidates seeking a job, we will strengthen New York City’s economic future,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“By putting yet another roadblock to employment for people with lower credit, you also make their path to good credit even steeper. Rather than pushing these individuals further down the ladder we should be encouraging them and working with them to ensure that they receive the financial advice they need to get back on their feet,” said Council member Ydanis Rodriguez. “I am incredibly proud of the work the Council has done to ensure that we protect New Yorkers from these invasive checks that have no proven correlation to one’s ability to do the job. Congratulations to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, Council member Lander and the advocate coalitions for another success and for again protecting our most vulnerable.”

“Your credit has nothing to do with your qualifications for employment. Because you couldn’t afford to pay your exorbitant hospital bill doesn’t mean you won’t be a great employee. That’s while I’m a proud supporter of this law,” said Council Member David Greenfield.

With so many New Yorkers out of jobs, a hiring practice that makes obtaining jobs even harder is not economically or socially responsible.  This is an unfair practice, as many New Yorkers suffer from bad credit due to unforeseen life circumstances such as medical debt or divorce,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

“New York City is taking a smart and important step in eliminating the use of credit checks in the hiring process, removing what has been an unfair barrier to employment for many New Yorkers,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director, National Employment Law Project.  

“I went to college to open up career opportunities for me. Instead, the massive debt I incurred from my student loans is now barring me from getting jobs from employers who do credit checks. My credit report does not reflect the fact that I’m a determined worker with a stellar performance record. It just shows that I’m in debt. So glad I no longer have to worry about this holding me back,” – Onieka O’Kieffe, member of the Retail Action Project.

“We have seen multiple New Yorkers denied jobs because of inaccurate information on their credit reports,” notes Evan Denerstein, Staff Attorney at MFY Legal Services. “Although federal law grants applicants the opportunity to correct this information, they are rarely able to do so in time to get the job.”

“We know employment credit checks are a catch-22 that prevent qualified workers from getting a job when they need one the most. By removing this discriminatory barrier, the Council is affirming its commitment to get New Yorkers back to work,” Emmanuel Caicedo, Senior Campaign Strategist at Demos.

“It has not been proven that credit history is a predictor of successful job performance,” said Mary Ellen Clark, Executive Director for the New York City Employment & Training Coalition.  “As advocates for over 150 job training and employment service providers within the city’s workforce development community, the New York City Employment & Training Coalition (NYCETC) applauds the Council decision to bring Intro 261 to the floor for a vote, strengthening NYC worker rights.”  

“Because the use of credit reports has a proven discriminatory effect, Intro 261 is also a huge civil rights victory,” reminds Robert Martin, Associate Director of District Council 37 Legal Services.

“This bill will help more New Yorkers return to work while barring one of the most wide-reaching forms of employment discrimination workers have faced–especially low income people and people of color. It’s a great step towards civil rights for all!” states Bill Lipton, State Director of the New York Working Families Party.

The bill has received the strong support of labor groups throughout the city. 

“The passage of this legislation is a clear win for working New Yorkers,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.  “This initiative is a result of a true partnership between the labor movement and our coalition partners, who understand that student debt and unemployment are not indicative of responsibility or ethics. The New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO will continue to work with our worker allies to remove unnecessary barriers to employment, and to help ensure that New Yorkers are able to secure jobs that afford them good wages, benefits, and union protections.” 

Julie Kelly, General Manager, New York New Jersey Regional Joint Board, Workers United, an SEIU Affiliate said the legislation is “an important bill that needs to pass to fight discrimination against workers who have already been punished by an unfair economy,”

The bill also received strong support from students who were concerned about their job prospects after accumulating massive amounts of student debt. 

“Students looking to join the workforce can rejoice today.  Impacts on credit history–from things like student loans–have nothing to do with a person’s character or likelihood to commit fraud and should not block students from beginning their careers,” said Armando Chapelliquen, Campaign Organizer with NYPIRG.

“The Center for NYC Neighborhoods applauds the City Council for its support of this important policy. We’re an organization committed to affordable housing, and affordable homeownership, but we know that we cannot have either without fair wages and fair hiring practices. We look forward to continuing to work with the many coalition partners that made today’s success possible as we strive toward an ever more equitable New York City,” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

With so many New Yorkers out of jobs, a hiring practice that makes obtaining jobs even harder is not economically or socially responsible. Getting more New Yorkers back to work will also help the city and the state to increase economic growth. 

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