Cohen-Warren Bill to Protect Job Seekers from Credit-Based Discrimination Introduced in the House

September 16, 2015
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced his Equal Employment for All Act in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect job seekers from unfair discrimination from employers based on credit ratings that are often inaccurate and bear little to no correlation to job performance or ability to succeed in the workplace. The legislation, which is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and cosponsored by 17 of her Senate colleagues, would protect prospective employees from being forced to disclose their credit history as part of an employer’s application process. This week, Senator Warren and Congressman Cohen co-authored an op-ed to underscore the need for this legislation that also appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and on TIME, Fox Business and Yahoo.

“Using a job applicant’s credit history to deny employment is not just unfair, it also makes no sense because credit scores are not accurate predictors of job performance,” said Congressman Cohen. “We should be doing everything in our power to help people find jobs – not hinder them. I am pleased that a consumer champion like Senator Warren has joined this fight and I look forward to working with her to pass our Equal Employment for All Act.

“A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is a reflection on an individual's character or abilities,” Senator Warren said. “Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness -- let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.”

Extensive research has shown that a family’s poor credit is more often the result of medical bills or unemployment than a mark of someone’s character or ability to perform in the workplace. Following the 2008 financial crisis, millions of people confronted job loss, shrinking home prices, and depreciated savings. For too many people, the fallout from the crisis also damaged their credit. Today, credit reports are not always accurate, and poor credit disproportionately targets women, minorities, and those already struggling financially. Including credit checks as part of the hiring process bars qualified workers from entering the workforce. The Equal Employment for All Act would make sure that hiring decisions are made based on an individual’s skill and experience rather than credit reports. Eleven states and the City of New York already have similar laws already in place, and legislation to protect job seekers has been introduced in another 19.

Congressman Cohen originally introduced the Equal Employment for All Act in 2009 to prohibit employers from using credit checks and bankruptcy filings in the hiring process unless the position sought requires national security clearance. The legislation was reintroduced in the House today with 17 original cosponsors.

The Equal Employment for All Act has been endorsed by more than 40 organizations, including 9to5, AFGE Women's and Fair Practices Departments, American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA), American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Relations (AFL-CIO), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Americans for Financial Reform, Asian American Justice Center, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Black Women's Roundtable, Campaign for Community Change, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Consumer Action, Dēmos, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), Disability Rights Legal Center, Job Opportunities Task Force, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Legal Action Center, MFY Legal Services, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Black Justice Coalition, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), National Council of La Raza, National Council on Independent Living, National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), National Fair Housing Alliance, The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women's Law Center, National Workrights Institute, New Economy Project, New York Legal Assistance Group, PolicyLink, Poverty and Race Research Action Council, Public Citizen, Public Justice Center, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and U.S. PIRG.