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Ramos, Tucker, Watson Coleman, Spencer, Caride & Sumter Bill to Ban Credit Checks from Employers Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ruben J. Ramos Jr., Cleopatra Tucker, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Grace Spencer, Marlene Caride and Shavonda Sumter to prohibit employers from requiring credit checks as a condition of employment was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The measure (A-704/2840) prohibits an employer from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee, unless the employer is required to do so by law, or reasonably believes that an employee has engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law.
“In most cases I see no legitimate reason for making a credit check a condition of employment,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “Let’s be fair here and require credit checks only when an employee will be working in a job that’s financial in nature. In other cases, it just simply isn’t necessary and is quite simply unfair.”
“The bill does not prevent an employer from a credit inquiry or employment action if credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position or employment classification,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Otherwise, requiring such checks may actually be impairing someone’s ability to recover financially by starting a new job.”
“This is all about fairness,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “In today’s world, the difficult reality is many middle- and lower-income workers do not have stellar credit, often times through no direct fault of their own. It’s wrong to use that against them when it comes to most jobs.”
“If someone’s credit rating has nothing to do with the job at hand, then there’s no valid reason to use it as a condition of employment,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “It’s patently unfair and a form of discrimination against many working class residents striving to make ends meet in this difficult economy. It should be banned.”
“Credit checks have their place, but not when it comes to many jobs sought by middle-class and lower-income workers, so let’s make sure everyone is being treated fairly,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Running credit checks when they’re not necessary serves no purpose other than to make it more difficult for many people to find work. That’s not right.”
“A credit check is valid when it comes to financial jobs, but not every job involves handling money, so in many cases, it’s just an unfair job requirement,” said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Hard-working residents who may have fallen on tough times should not be penalized. We should be opening doors to opportunity, not closing them.”
The bill does not prevent an employer from performing a credit inquiry or taking an employment action if credit history is a bona fide occupational qualification of a particular position or employment classification, including:
· 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 assets 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, or a governmental or non-governmental security personnel position, including security personnel in a homeland security agency.
The bill 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. The bill also prohibits retaliation or discrimination against an individual because the individual has done or was about to do any of the following:
· File a complaint pursuant to provisions of the bill;
· Testify, assist, or participate in an investigation, proceeding, or action concerning a violation of the bill; or
· Otherwise oppose a violation of the bill.
Any current, prospective, or former employee aggrieved under the provisions of the bill may bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate injunctive relief and damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs. In addition, the bill provides for the imposition of civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $2,000 for the first violation, and $5,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.
The bill was released by the Assembly Labor Committee