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A Check On Employers' Reach

Interesting story about what seems (to me) to be a common-sense piece of legislation being proposed by lawmakers from 16 states, Michigan among them...

Employers say such checks give them valuable information about an applicant's honesty and sense of responsibility. But lawmakers in at least 16 states, including Michigan, have proposed outlawing most credit checks, saying the practice traps people in debt because their past financial problems prevent them from finding work.

Michigan State Rep. Jon Switalski, a Democrat from the 25th District, which covers parts of Warren and Sterling Heights, Michigan, introduced a measure in 2009 that would curb employers' ability to deny jobs to those with poor credit. “Some employers check credit scores and credit history to determine if, in their opinion, they are worthy of holding a job or not. I believe that is discriminatory,” he said in an interview.

I'm all for employers having tools to find the best people available, but allowing business this kind of license just strikes me as one more way of keeping working folks mired in a morass of debt. I don't know about you, but I've experienced the Stygian depths of a below-570 credit score before -- and I know very well that a good job is the fastest way to straightening out your money problems. So how do you do this if those same financial woes won't allow you to get the job to begin with?

And in an economy like Michigan's, just how much of a bright and productive workforce can state businesses afford to eliminate from job consideration because of missed car payments, overdue mortgages and ugly credit card balances? (Yes, I'd imagine that there are jobs where an employer would want to be certain about someone's financial acumen, but surely there are better ways of knowing if your future comptroller is up to snuff than by checking the balance owed on his Honda Accord.)

Nothing wrong with an employer safeguarding his own business. But that doesn't make it right for him to be all up in mine.

Thoughts? Should potential employers be allowed to check a job candidate's credit history, even in Michigan's dire economic climate? Or is this kind of latitude unnecessarily invasive and discriminatory against a hard-hit middle- and working-class?

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