Should Employers Be Able to Check the Credit Scores of Job Applicants?

Last Updated Aug 7, 2009 3:02 PM EDT

Even though unemployment dipped in July, President Obama's team has been preparing the nation for ten percent unemployment. It's obviously a tough time to find a job, so a recent report on hiring trends in the New York Times must come as another blow to unemployed Americans looking to dig themselves out of financial holes:
Once reserved for government jobs or payroll positions that could involve significant sums of money, credit checks are now fast, cheap and used for all manner of work. Employers, often winnowing a big pool of job applicants in days of nearly 10 percent unemployment, view the credit check as a valuable tool for assessing someone's judgment.
This seems like an invasion of privacy to me. Why should employers have access to this type of data? Anyone can hit a rough patch and one's credit score may have nothing to do with how well one will do the job. Furthermore, as a BNET feature has noted, different racial and ethnic groups have substantially different credit scores.
Speaking of race and testing, the Supreme Court's July ruling in the New Haven white firefighter promotion case (perhaps you've heard of the appellate judge, Sonia Sotomayor) has some testing advocates excited that they'll have more legal leeway to use tests during hirings and promotions.
I concede that employers should be able to standardize their hiring processes, and that might, in some cases, involve testing. However, it seems the testing craze (and the public's willingness to accept it) has gotten out of hand. Case in point: PETA is demanding that the NFL force a mental test upon dog-ring kingpin quarterback Michael Vick, who is trying to work his way back into the game after serving 23 more months in jail than any of the crooks at Bank of America ever will.
  • Stefan Deeran

    Stefan Deeran helps environmental nonprofits and green businesses develop and execute their new media campaigns. He also publishes The Exception magazine, a nonpartisan news platform serving his home state of Maine. You can follow him on Twitter @RStefanDeeran or via Facebook.