time, we talked about how an employer could legally fire you if your credit
history revealed an $8,000 unpaid balance for a porn subscription.
in mind, however, that the unpaid balance must be the actual reason that the
company refused to hire you. By that, I mean the company can't just use your
credit history as the legitimate reason that it refused to hire you when the
real reason is that you are an African American, a woman, or disabled.
Indirect Evidence of
would you know that your credit history was merely a pretext--or an excuse--for
real discrimination? In many cases, you wouldn't. All you would know is that
you didn't get hired. But if it became apparent to you that the company was
hiring a lot of Caucasian people and not hiring a lot of qualified African
American applicants, then something else may be going on. In a lawsuit, your
attorney would be looking for evidence that the company turned you down, citing
concerns about credit history, while also hiring a bunch of white people with
equally troubling credit histories. This is called indirect evidence.
Direct Evidence of
course, you might find more direct evidence once you started digging around.
Take this case, for
instance. Here, the company--a national food distributor and marketer--refused to
hire women for positions in distribution factories, according to the EEOC. In
some cases like these, the plaintiff must rely primarily on statistical
analysis to help show that there was a pattern or practice of refusing to hire
a certain class of people. Not so in this case. Again, according to the EEOC,
senior managers made comments that "were tantamount to directing the
managers to favor males and to discriminate against females in hiring."
The lawsuit claims that one vice president said, "Why would we ever waste
our time bringing in females?" Remember, this is a lawsuit, so none of
these claims have been proven. Regardless, the point is the same. If there is
evidence like this in your case, the company could not easily hide behind the
fact that you had a blemish on your credit history, particularly if it hired men
with less-than-perfect credit records.
more data becomes available on individuals, this area of the law will continue
to develop. For instance, this series of posts has been about what happens if
an employer learns of your red-light district activities through your use of
work property or if it is reflected on your credit history. But consider this
question: what if your employer could buy information about your activities on
the Internet? Sophisticated marketers do this all the time. It may become
possible, and inexpensive, in the near future, for a prospective employer to
buy this information. As long as the company does this in a nondiscriminatory
way (and lawfully obtains the information--and much of it would be fair game since you
give up a significant amount of privacy when you use the Internet), there would
be nothing illegal about employers using this information in hiring decisions, just
as they currently do for credit and criminal history checks.
What You Can Do to Protect
the answer here? There is no one answer, but here are some action points for
Don't use your work computer
for visiting the red-light district!
Know your credit history, and make
sure that it is accurate.
If you have trouble getting in
touch with the credit agency, call a lawyer who handles consumer rights cases.
Know that, in most states, a
private employer can look at your credit history but must get permission from
you to do so.
Do some research to see whether
your state puts further restrictions on use of credit reports.
If you have a bump or two in
your history, explain the issue to your employer.
Call an employment lawyer if
you think an employer discriminated against you based on your sex, race, age,
or disability and is simply using your credit history as a cover.