No Credit? No Problem.

May 16, 2011

If you've got bad credit and want to apply for a job at the City of Hartford, this may be your chance.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the city council recently approved an ordinance banning the use of credit checks in all city hiring. Councilman Luis Cotto says he probably couldn't get a job in some city departments. "I would not pass a credit check and I like to think that I can work in the finance department or anything, so the question arises, do we really need this?" And the city's answer is no.  Hartford says it typically does credit checks for prospective police officers and anyone who handles money.  But last week, the council decided to put an end to the practice. Cotto says that some people think credit checks are an indicator of potential problems --  from bad job performance to potential criminal activity.  But he doesn't. "If we really want to try and remove a barrier for people to participate in the municipality as far as getting a job, then we should remove these barriers. It's basically causing an environment where you have discriminatory practices which negatively affect Latino and Black populations." Dan Schwartz is a lawyer who runs the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.  He says federal laws give employers the right to not hire someone based on a bad credit report.  But, he also says there is some concern at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the use of credit reports in hiring may have a harsh effect on minorities. "Because the statistics show that African-Americans as a whole have a disproportionately higher share of bad credit reports.  So to the extent that the credit reports are really being used as a proxy for race, then the EEOC said we may have an issue with it." Last week, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra also said the city would no longer ask applicants about their criminal histories until they are offered a job. For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.