On March 2nd, 2012 MI State Representative Jon Switalski and fellow members of congress introduced HB4363: The Job Applicant Credit Privacy Act with the intention of providing an additional safeguard to applicants from being rejected for a job position solely due to their credit score, debt, history, or associated personal finances. The passage of this bill with its original content would prevent employers from inquiring financial history, prevent retaliation, and provide a remedy for those seeking jobs without perfect credit scores.. In the mlive article from the Bay City Times entitled, "Bay City woman fights for bill passage that would prohibit credit checks on employees," Deborah Wilcox asserts, "The taxpayers have to be furious because I could be supporting my kids and myself." She goes onto to argue that she was turned down for three well paying jobs because of credit checks from employers that revealed student loans, credit card debt, and additional bills. The third company that rejected her argued that bad credit made her seem unreliable.
However, Congressmen Switalski (D-Warren) refutes that idea, "Inherently, there is no correlation between how good somebody's credit is and how good they do as an employee." He also furthers his case by stating, "We don't let a business discriminate over age, religion and race. We shouldn't let them discriminate over credit score."
If credit scores and background checks don't already constitute an unnecessary invasion of personal history; imagine the horrors of not obtaining a job because of false information on a background check. In the mlive article from the Grand Rapids Press, "Roskam Banking Co. lawsuit draws attention to mistaken identity as potential job killer" Leonardo Molina was dismissed from his temporary job agency and denied a permanent job at Roskam Banking Co. because of a false out-of-state felony conviction perpetrated by another Leonardo Molina from Florida. The fictitious information led to immediate dismissal from both jobs; in response Mr. Molina has taken legal action against several background check companies who provided the incorrect facts of his report to his employer.
These two differing examples contrast one another and exemplify the injustices suffered by hard working Michigan citizens trying to get back on their feet during times of economic hardship. The crash and stagnant economic market since 2008 has left many in Michigan without jobs as well as increasing personal debts as a direct result. Although this is the second time a bill restricting employer inquiry of credit history has been introduced to the house floor, the widespread bipartisan support of the bill deems an increased likelihood of passage.
Opposition of the bill mounts from many financial companies; Wendy Yelsik the former President of Valley Society Human Resource Management asserts, "I think (a credit check) would be a basis of proving responsibility on a person," she said, noting it's not unusual for employers - especially those in the financial industry - to check the credit of potential employees." Even with the opposition's opinion taken into account, Tena Friery a research director at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse affirms, "It's not uncommon for mistakes like that to be made" when referencing Mr. Molina's fallacious conviction on his background report.
A clear division emerges between employer's evaluation of worker responsibility based on financial history and the implementation of safeguards to protect the dignity of potential job applicants. I support passage and immediate enactment of HB:4363 on the basis that applicants should not be arbitrarily discriminated against solely because of their credit history in relation to company interests in protecting itself and employees. The preponderance of claims that worker responsibility is conducive and representative to an applicant's financial history is total farce and seeks to undermine the individual's ability and integrity within the workplace. With the ensuing tough economic times throughout Michigan, I believe all unfair and non-representative barriers should be removed to allow opportunity and prosperity for all.