Tag Archives: credit reports

Experts Reveal Best Practices for Running Credit Checks during Employment Screening

By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor

A recent article from Inc.com, ‘How to Run a Credit Check,’ reveals best practices from experts for every step of the credit check process during employment screening so that employers may check the financial stability of potential employees.

According to the Inc.com article, employers using credit checks must consider the strong protections for potential employees that are built into federal regulations. They also need to be prepared for what to do with the results of the credit check and whether a bad credit history should automatically disqualify a job applicant from working at their business.

Financial background check experts – including Jared Callahan, Director of Client Relations for Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – agree the following five basic steps should be followed to get the most out of credit checks:

  • Step #1 – Have a Permissible Use
  • Step #2 – Get Permission
  • Step #3 – Find a Service to Use
  • Step #4 – Interpreting the Results
  • Step #5 – Do a Test Run

Step #1 – Have a Permissible Use

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates what constitutes a permissible use for credit reports:

  • In connection with a credit transaction;
  • Employment purposes;
  • Underwriting of insurance;
  • Professional licensing; and
  • Account review or other legitimate business needs.

For employment purposes, Callahan says only potential employees seeking jobs related to financial responsibilities should be subjected to a credit check: “If you’ve got ditch diggers out in the middle of nowhere, a credit check might not be relevant.” Employers also need to make sure the credit report is for a relevant purpose and that they are not arbitrarily digging into someone’s financial history.

Step #2 – Get Permission

Federal law requires employers always disclose when they seek to run a credit check on job applicants and they need to get their permission in writing too, along with personal information since credit check agencies require a full name and Social Security number. “The candidate’s rights are absolutely bulletproof protected by the Fed and the state you are in,” Callahan says.

Step #3 – Find a Service to Use

After attaining the permission of applicants, employers running credit checks on potential employees may use services such as Employment Screening Resources (ESR) that provide special employment-only credit checks with other background check information. These services usually charge a fee to run a credit check.

Step #4 – Interpreting the Results

Experts advise that standards for weighing the results should be established before employers start running credit checks on job applicants and that it is important to have a plan in place for what items will signal “red flags” or warning signs.

However, Callahan warns employers against jumping to a conclusion no matter what the credit report says since up to 75 percent of all credit reports contain incorrect information, including wrong home addresses and inaccurate bankruptcy details. “You really have to take a credit report with a grain of salt,” says Callahan, who also suggests that employers give subjects of credit reports a chance to respond and produce authentication for any financial points appearing on the credit report.

Step #5 – Do a Test Run

Consumers can run their own credit reports since the FCRA allows consumers to receive one free credit report a year from each of the three main reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Consumers running their own credit check can keep on top of financial issues such as identity theft while finding and correcting inaccurate information. Government regulations make it easy to go online and contest the details of credit reports.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – recommends that employers should approach the use of credit reports for employment purposes with caution and use them only if there is a business justification. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is very concerned about the use of credit reports for employment purposes and has filed legal actions against some firms that use credit reports alleging that it results in a disparate or discriminatory impact.

In addition, some states are considering, or have passed, legislation to restrict the use of credit reports for employment purposes.  For example, effective January 3, 2011, the State of Illinois restricts employers from using credit reports for employment purposes. Under Illinois House Bill 4658 ‘The Employee Credit Privacy Act,’ employers in Illinois may not use a person’s credit history to determine employment, recruiting, discharge, or compensation.

The Inc.com article ‘How to Run a Credit Check’ is available at http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-run-a-credit-check.html.

For more information about credit checks, visit the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) website at http://www.ESRcheck.com

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be ‘Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more about ESR’s Leadership, Resources, and Solutions, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/how-to-run-a-credit-check.html

http://community.ere.net/blogs/doreenkoronios/2011/01/effective-132011-state-of-illinois-restricts-employers-from-using-credit-reports-for-employment-purposes/

Court Decision Clarifies that a Bankruptcy can be Used as Part of Pre-Employment Background Check for Private Employers

A new decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has clarified the issue of whether a private employer can legally consider a job applicant’s bankruptcy under U.S bankruptcy law in making an employment decision. The Court ruled that when it comes to private employers, Congress intentionally only protected current employees from discrimination under bankruptcy law, and that job applicants were not protected. However, employers should still approach the use of bankruptcy records with great caution. Continue reading

Bad Credit Found During Background Check Leads to Revoked Job Offer and Lawsuit against University

By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor

A woman is suing the University of Miami (UM) in federal court on after her job offer at the college’s medical school was revoked due to bad credit found on a background check, a case some hope will help ban employers from using credit histories in hiring decisions.

According to a report by the Miami Herald, the woman’s application to become a senior medical collector in the patient financial services department had already been accepted by the UM when she was notified that a car repossession and defaulted student loan found on her credit report during a background check disqualified her from the job, even after she had been through several interviews and apparently had the right experience for that job.

In addition, the woman filing the suit is African-American and some believe the use credit reports by employers discriminates against minority job applicants since more Latinos and blacks are unemployed than whites and unemployment is often the reason people cannot pay their bills, according to the report in the Miami Herald.  The lawsuit is pending in court.

With unemployment still high and the economy still low, many job seekers with bad credit histories are in a “Catch-22” situation where they cannot fix their credit without finding a job but cannot find a job because they are rejected due to their bad credit. Meanwhile, employers argue that credit checks can help a company protect its assets, its clients, and prevent liability from negligent hiring claims.

While many and job seekers would like credit checks eliminated altogether by employers, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that 60 percent of employers performed credit checks on at least some job applicants during the background check process and more than 1 in 10 employers ran credit checks on every job applicant.

As reported earlier on ESR News, credit background checks for employment purposes are a controversial part of the background screening industry, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a recent public meeting to discuss whether the use of credit checks during background checks violates the civil rights of job applicants.

To read more ESR News reports about the use of credit reports during employment background checks, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/credit-reports/.

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/06/1960665/woman-with-bad-credit-sues-um.html

Bill Restricting New Jersey Employers from Requiring Employment Credit Checks on Job Applicants Moves Closer to Law

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A bill that would restrict employers in New Jersey from requiring credit checks as a condition of employment is advancing toward law, according to a news release from the Assembly Democrats web site.

Bill A-3238 – sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker – prohibits an employer in New Jersey from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee as a condition of employment, unless the employer is required to do so by law or reasonably believes an employee has engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law.

Under the bill, credit checks would be allowed for:

  • A managerial position which involves setting the financial direction or control of the business;
  • A position which involves access to customers’, employees’, or employers’ personal belongings or financial information, other than information customarily provided in a retail transaction;
  • A position which involves a fiduciary responsibility to the employer, including, but not limited to, the authority to issue payments, transfer money or enter into contracts or involves leases of real property;
  • A position which provides an expense account for travel; or
  • A law enforcement officer for a law enforcement agency in this state.

The bill also prohibits an employer from requiring a prospective employee to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment.

In addition, the bill provides for the imposition of civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for the first violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog, credit checks for employment purposes have become a controversial subject as job seekers look for work in a tough economy are caught in a “Catch-22” situation where they have bad credit because they cannot get a job but cannot get a job because they have bad credit.

As a result, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC held a public Commission meeting on October 20 to hear testimony on the growing use of credit histories of job applicants as selection criteria during employment background screening to see if the practice is discriminatory in any way. More information on the EEOC meeting may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm.

For more information about employment credit checks, visit ESR News Blog section on ‘Credit Reports’ at http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/credit-reports/.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.assemblydems.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=3252
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3238_I1.HTM
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-20-10b.cfm
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm

SHRM Tells EEOC Credit Checks Are Legitimate Background Screening Tool at Recent Public Meeting

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

According to a news story on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website – “SHRM: Credit Checks Are Legitimate Screening Tool” – a representative for SHRM told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during a public hearing on October 20, 2010 that the federal government should not eliminate an employer’s use of credit histories to help make decisions about job candidates.

The representative, in prepared comments, said that “SHRM believes there is a compelling public interest in enabling our nation’s employers – whether that employer is in the government or the private sector – to assess the skills, abilities, and work habits of potential hires.” In addition, the representative said credit history is one of many factors – including education, experience and certifications – that employers use “to narrow that applicant pool to those who are most qualified.”

The SHRM representative pointed out Human Resources (HR) typically conducts a background check on the job finalist or group of finalists before making a job offer, and that background check might include checking personal references, criminal history, and credit history depending on the employer and the position to be filled.
 
Citing the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the representative said SHRM believes “employees already have significant federal protection for the misuse of background checks.”
 
Recent SHRM Research Department data on the use of employer background screening practices was also referenced at the meeting. Among the findings:

  • Just 13 percent of employers surveyed conducted credit checks on all job candidates while another 47 percent consider credit history for candidates of select jobs.
  • Employers generally conducted credit checks only for certain positions, including jobs of financial or fiduciary responsibilities (91 percent), senior executive positions (46 percent) and positions with access to confidential employee information (34 percent).
  • Among employers that used credit checks, 57 percent initiated them only after making a contingent job offer and 30 percent initiated them after the job interview.
  • Four out of 10 employers surveyed did not conduct credit checks.

The EEOC heard public comment from SHRM and others to determine the extent of the practice of using credit checks during the background screening of job candidates, the effectiveness of its intended purpose, and its potential impact on different populations.

More information about the EEOC public meeting can be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.shrm.org/about/news/Pages/LegitimateScreeningTool.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+shrm%2Fnews%2Fhr+(SHRM+Online%3A+HR+News)

EEOC Public Meeting Explores Use of Credit Histories of Job Applicants for Employment Background Screening

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

According to a press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC held a public Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 20 to hear testimony from representatives of various groups, social scientists, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the growing use of credit histories of job applicants as selection criteria during employment background screening.

The EEOC Chair commented that the discussion provided important input into EEOC’s work to ensure that “the workplace is made free of all barriers to equal opportunity.” She also said that as a result of high unemployment forcing more people into the job market, an increasing number of job applicants are exposed to employment background screening tools such as credit checks that could unfairly exclude them from job opportunities. 

The Commission heard from a diverse set of experts, including one from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) who expressed concerns that the use of credit histories creates a “Catch-22” situation for job applicants during the current period of high unemployment and high foreclosures, both of which have negative impacts on credit. Others explained using credit histories for employment purposes can have a disparate impact on protected groups, including people of color, women, and the disabled. 

Representatives from the business community – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) – told the Commission that the use of credit histories is permissible by law, limited in scope, and predictive in certain situations of reliability. A recent survey from SHRM revealed that 13 percent of organizations conduct credit checks on all job candidates and another 47 percent consider credit history for selected jobs. Also, it is the experience of SHRM member companies that few organizations utilize credit histories for every job opening. 

However, an industrial psychologist said that there is little research exploring the implications of using credit checks in the employment context and – given the potential for discriminatory exclusion – he concluded that it would be wise to use an applicant’s credit history only within the context of a thorough background check.

The statements of all the panelists at the meeting, along with their biographies, can be found on the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm. A complete transcript of the testimony will be posted later.

For more information about employment background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-20-10b.cfm
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm

Hot Off the Press: EEOC To Hear Testimony on Employer Use of Credit Reports as Background Screening Tool at Open Meeting on October 20

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced it will hold a meeting Wednesday, October 20, 2010 to hear testimony about employer use of credit reports as a background screening tool and to investigate the practice of using credit histories as employment screening devices.

According to various news releases and news reports, some of the testimony aims to clear up some common misperceptions about the use of employment credit reports by employers, including a common misperception that employment credit reports include a credit score.

The House Financial Services Committee conducted a hearing in September to discuss the Equal Employment for All Act (H.R. 3149), a bill aimed at severely limiting the use of credit checks on employees that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to make it unlawful to discriminate against job applicants based on consumer credit reports. The Equal Employment for All Act would make it unlawful to base adverse-employment decisions against job applicants and current employees on consumer credit reports.

The EEOC last held a meeting on credit checks in 2007. No action was taken. The meeting on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 will be held at 9:30 A.M. Eastern Time in the Commission Meeting Room on the First Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE, Washington, D.C.

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Blog has several previous posts dealing with the issue of employers using employment credit reports during background screening. As reported before on the ESR News Blog, several states have already passed laws restricting the use of credit checks in hiring: 

ESR has long taken the position that employers should proceed with caution with using applicant and employee credit histories in the background screening process and not use employment credit reports unless they can clearly articulate a business justification, which normally means that that the job applicants or current employees have or will hold “sensitive” positions in which they may handle money or have access to personal data.

ESR also co-authorized a white paper with LexisNexis, “The Use of Credit Reports
in Employment Background Screening – An Overview for Job Applicants,”
on the protections applicants have when it comes to credit reports and the fact that credit reports do not contain credit scores. To read the white paper, visit: http://www.napbs.com/files/public/Consumer_Education/Credit_Reports_for_Background_Screening.pdf

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/next.cfm
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20101019005748/en/EEOC-Discuss-Employer-Credit-History-Screening-Tool
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/blogs/capital-land/eeoc-looking-at-practice-of-credit-checks-screening-105215569.html
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-3149
http://www.napbs.com/files/public/Consumer_Education/Credit_Reports_for_Background_Screening.pdf

Credit Report Case Demonstrates Challenges in Reporting OFAC Terrorist Information in a Background Screening Report

A case involving a consumer credit report used in an automobile purchase demonstrates the potential dangers of terrorist database searches commonly used by background firms. This appears to be the first case in the nation dealing with use of terrorist databases by credit bureaus under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and provides guidance for the use of such information by Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs), which includes both credit bureaus and background screening firms. Continue reading

CA Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill Limiting Use of Credit Reports for Employment Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

To the relief of a number of California employers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill passed by the California Legislature– AB 482 – that would have limited the use of credit reports by employers during employment background checks.

Assembly Bill (AB) 482 would have prohibited employers from using credit checks for employment purposes, except in limited circumstances.  In his “veto message” to the members of the California state assembly, the Governor stated that he vetoed the bill because existing law already provided protections for employees from improper use of credit reports and that the bill would “significantly increase the exposure for potential litigation over the use of credit checks.”

The Governor’s veto message is available on a Legislative Update press release at http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/16065/:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 482 without my signature.

This bill would prohibit an employer from using a consumer credit report for employment purposes with certain exceptions.

This bill is similar to legislation I have vetoed for the last two years on the basis that California’s employers and businesses have inherent needs to obtain information about applicants for employment and existing law already provides protections for employees from improper use of credit reports. As with the last two bills, this measure would also significantly increase the exposure for potential litigation over the use of credit checks.

For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The use of credit reports by employers during employment background checks has become a very controversial subject. Several states have limited the use of credit reports for employment purposes and a federal bill seeks to ban credit report checks for most employment screening.

The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Blog has posted several articles on the use of credit repots during employment background checks:

However, ESR has also written about how ‘Credit Reports of Job Applicants May Not Always Be So Important To Employers’ to address concerns of applicants who are concerned how their damaged credit would affect their job searches. Employment credit checks are not as common as most people think.

According to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), while 60% of organizations performed some type of credit report checks on job candidates, only 13% conducted credit report checks on all job candidates and 47% of organizations performed credit report checks on selected job candidates, mostly for executive positions or positions with financial responsibility or access to confidential or proprietary information.

For more information on background checks and credit reports, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/16065/
http://dl5.activatedirect.com/fs/distribution:letterFile/yvcee9xanplikz_files/z5mlul9x4a1k16?&_c=d%7Cyvcee9xanplikz%7Cz5msx9bcq0v1fm&_ce=1285692164.e3bbe42d582391f05909ff900f2c86a6
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0451-0500/ab_482_bill_20100923_history.html

Credit Reports of Job Applicants May Not Always Be So Important To Employers

Employment Screening Resources President Lester Rosen Quoted on SFGate.com

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

Recently, a blog on SFGate.com by Personal Finance Authority Erica Sandberg – Can you get a job with bad credit? The answer may surprise you. – addressed a reader who was concerned how her damaged credit would affect her job search.

In her blog, which contained an excerpt from a column she wrote on CreditCards.com, Sandberg indicated there are “many myths surrounding credit reports and employment” and that to “get to the bottom” of how credit reports are really being used she spoke with Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a consumer reporting agency (CRA) and human resources consulting firm based in the San Francisco area.

In the blog, Rosen had the following to say about credit reports of job applicants being used for employment purposes:

  • Employers don’t randomly access credit reports from all job applicants. They only do so for those who are solid candidates.
  • If they are pulling a credit report, congratulations! They are doing a background check, and that is good news, as they are seriously considering the applicant for the position. They won’t run it before the applicant is a finalist.
  • Credit reports aren’t checked for all occupations or industries. Most employers are looking at credit reports for people applying for positions that are clearly related to finance or have access to cash or credit. They usually don’t access credit reports for people applying for minimum wage jobs.
  • The only way an employer can pull an applicant’s credit report is with the applicant’s permission. Therefore, if the employer asks, the applicant should head over to the human resources department and explain his or her particular situation.
  • A potential boss does not have access to the same type of reports that lenders do. The credit reports employers can see never include credit scores or list dates of birth. All they can view is an applicant’s credit history.
  • If applicants are concerned about how these credit report pulls may harm their credit report further, they can relax. Unlike when a prospective creditor checks it, no “inquiry” will be listed.

As for the real impact of a job applicant’s credit damage, Rosen recommends in the blog that they should not worry about even that too much.

“Our experience is that employers are very sensitive to the fact that credit reports are not perfect. And everyone in the world knows there is a recession, and employers take that into consideration. It’s a misconception that people are being blacklisted because of their credit reports. However, if the employer does makes an adverse decision based on your report, you have a right to know about it and get a copy of the report they used.”

The gist of the story, according to Sandberg, is that credit reports may not be as powerful and important as job applicants may think, and that chances are some employers will be willing to give applicants with debt problems a break if they really want to hire them.

For more information on the use of credit reports in background checks of job applicants, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
 
Sources:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/esandberg/detail?entry_id=69919
http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/erica-sandberg-credit-reports-score-impact-job-hunt-1377.php