Credit Checks. Not just for credit anymore.

There was an article up today about the growing trend of employers to check a potential employees credit history. It raised the question of race and any possible civil rights issues.

I have worked for three seperate companies that have asked for me to sign a document giving them blanket permission to check not only my criminal background, but my credit history as well. Each time I have gone directly to Human Resources and told them that I will indeed sign a form giving permission for a criminal history check, but that I will not give permission for a credit check. None of these jobs involved a company credit card or expense account. I have also crossed out sentences in these documents that gave permission for the company to speak with "anyone" from my past they deemed fit.

I'm 36, no one at a call center needs to talk to my high school gym teacher and this blanket form also gave permission for them to access medical records. Of all three companies employing these practices, only once was I told my job offer hinged on my signing the documents as they were. I refused the job.

Forms like these are an end run around our civil liberties. If there is a clear case for a through back-ground check, such as involvment with law enforcement, working closley with children or some other sensative situation, I can understand wanting the ablity to speak with anyone in the persons past. If the job has a high stress level or requires specific insurance that can only be obtained by the company after proving the employee has no long standing medical issues, I can understand requesting medical records. If the position requires issuing a company credit card, expense account or some other direct access to company funds, I can understand a credit check. What I do not understand is credit, medical history or overly background checks for positions in places like call centers.

As the article states, there is no information linking credit history with job performance. I believe this is a broader issue than the way ethnic groups may be affected. Any of us that have had to deal with unexpected bills and the reality of living pay check to pay check can attest to the fact that keeping your credit score up is a struggle. How will this practice affect those in our society who are trying to acheive a better life?

We promote a way of life that can only be acheived by living above your means and then punish people when they fall victim to that particular Catch 22.

I will continue to deny companies the right to check my credit history, personal background and medical history. I encourage others to question the practice as well. Require that the company making the request give you a valid reason for accessing that information. It's your personal data, don't be so quick to give it up.


knightjorge said...

Good points all, but I do understand the background check policy for most companies. Most of the time they don't contact anyone regarding your past unless you are trying for a law enforcement position or something like that. They just get the police record type background info. In cases where they do contact people from your past they generally also dig into your finances to see how susceptible to bribery you may be.

With the general background checks the companies need to make sure that you don't have theft charges and such because you are dealing with peoples personal and financial records and they don't want anyone that has been convicted of theft or identity fraud working with that kind of information. Same kind of thing goes for working a job where you'll be working with cash. I get those.

I don't get the credit check. That kind of irritates me that any company would request that when they don't have valid reason to. Every time your credit is run it takes points off of your credit rating, regardless of the reason that it's run. The least amount of points I have taken off of my credit rating the better off I am.

And as far as medical issues go it's none of their business unless it will directly affect the job. Even then I'm all for them asking if there are any medical issues that you feel they need to be aware of instead of getting access to your medical records. I have no problem with them knowing that I have asthma but I do have issues with them having unlimited access to everything I've had trouble with in my life. If they ask then I have a choice or whether to tell them anything and what to tell them. If they get your medical records then you don't have a choice about what they see, they just get the whole thing.

SuperSnark said...

"Forms like these are an end run around our civil liberties." Oooh, but this post hit a nerve. This is a pet peeve of mine, because I lost out on a fantastic job because of the credit mistakes my ex-husband and I made at the tender age of 19. And this was years (and really, lifetimes of maturity) later. For an ADMIN job. Was it handling money? No. Did it come with a credit card? No. So my question to them was what exactly does my credit history have to do with my ability to type 70 wpm, answer the phone, file, and show up on time every day? Their answer? "We believe it shows one's true character."

And at that, I was so insulted I didn't want to work for those judgmental asshats anyway.

viciousrumours said...

And that, dear readers, is why I refuse to let them check my credit. If I'm good enough to get the job offer, I'm good enough period. They don't need credit information to decide.

knightjorge said...

Supersnark- That really sucks! I've never lost out on a job because of a credit check. As far as I know I've never had a credit check run for a job. If I heard about that I would tell them not to run the credit check and if they said we need to for this job I would ask them to provide proof of the necessity for knowing my credit history. I have not had a great credit history. The last six years or so have been pretty good but, like you, I had some financial problems when I was younger. Plus I've been through a divorce and those hurt your credit just on the principle of the deal I swear.

I really just don't get the point of doing a credit check for just any old job. I really don't. I don't think it's right for an employer to want to delve into your history that much, it really shouldn't matter.

knightjorge said...

And I really think that I could go off for days about it seeing as how I've gone off here twice already. :)

Suzanne said...

This is also one of the things that most enrages me these days. People have no rights to privacy any more. Companies access all your info, and then even worse, sell them to other companies.

And credit card companies are seriously the slimiest, most evil soul out there. There is legal indentured servitude these days, and it is entirely to credit card companies who purposely mislead people and encourage them to get into serious debt trouble.


MoneyMaker said...

Everybody wouldn't like strange people to peddle his or her papers. But if you are going to change a job or to make a major purchase you must be ready that your credit history will be available for some people.