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Can an Employer Use My Credit Report Against Me in New York?

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2020 | Civil Litigation |

NYC civil service job defense attorneys

So you have made it through several rounds of interviewing and you really hit it off with a prospective employer. You receive a job offer. Human Resources says if you pass the background check and drug screening, you will start working there within a few weeks. No problem: You do not do drugs and you have no criminal history. This should be a routine pass, right? But you do have one skeleton in your closet: a terrible credit report. The employer gets back to you and says the company cannot hire you because you did not pass the background check. You suspect it is due to your credit report, but are they even allowed to deny employment on the basis of poor credit? Actually, this scenario is against the law in New York, with some exceptions.

NYC Human Rights Law: Giving You the Credit You Deserve

Your credit report does not define you. You may have fallen on hard times—anything from dealing with an expensive, debilitating illness to managing extreme reductions in income or long-term unemployment— and failed to pay your bills. Or, you might have been married to someone who dragged your credit through the mud. You might have even had your identity stolen, and it has not been restored yet. The point is, any number of extenuating circumstances could have caused you to amass a disastrous credit report. That does not make you any lesser of a person. It does not mean that you are a horrible worker. It does not mean that you are untrustworthy. You could still do the job you are hired to do—maybe even better than most, regardless of your credit report. And that is why employers cannot consider it when making hiring, firing, and promoting decisions in New York.

The NYC Human Rights Law offers this legal protection. Specifically, the law states that:

  • Employers are prohibited from running a credit check on you or having some other organization run a credit check on you.
  • Employers are forbidden from asking about your financial record, including payment history and credit standing.
  • Credit cannot be a reason to not hire or promote someone. Credit can also not be a reason to fire someone.

Eligibility for the NYC Human Rights Law

If your employer has four or more employees, including the company owner, the NYC Human Rights Law applies. In addition, the law covers many types of workers, including:

  • Full-time employees
  • Both union and non-union workers
  • Most independent contractors
  • Part-time employees
  • Interns
  • Undocumented workers
  • Domestic workers

Exceptions to the NYC Human Rights Law

Before you get too eager to do something about any possible discrimination on the basis of credit, you should know that there are exceptions. In New York, it is permissible for an employer to check an employee’s credit report for hiring, firing, and promoting decisions in the following jobs:

  • Executive-level positions that control finances, computer security, or trade secrets
  • Police and peace officers, excluding private security guards

In the case of the former, there can be some gray area that makes it difficult to determine whether the NYC Human Rights Law applies. For example, if the job responsibilities include managing money, accessing sensitive financial data, reviewing company accounting, or any number of confidential government job duties, it might be more difficult for either side to prove their case, one way or the other.

Contact a Manhattan Employee Defense Attorney

If you or your labor union suspect that your employer is discriminating against the employees at your company on the basis of credit, they may be in violation of the NYC Human Rights Law, and you or your labor union may want to file a civil lawsuit against them to receive compensation for the lost wages, encumbered future earning potential, and even the possible emotional damage that resulted from said discrimination. Contact an NYC civil litigation lawyer at 833-563-9522 or 833-JOEY-JAC to see what JOEY JACKSON LAW, PLLC, can do for you.