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.