This week the Oregon House voted to prohibit employers from using credit histories for any employment purposes including hiring, discharge, promotion and compensation. The Oregon Senate passed the bill last week, and Governor Ted Kulongoski is expected to sign the bill into law effective July 1, 2010. Click here to download a copy of the bill, SB 1045.

A violation of the new law will be an unlawful employment practice, and an aggrieved employee could either file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) or file a civil lawsuit for injunctive relief, reinstatement or back pay, and attorney's fees.

The new law will have some narrow exceptions: banks and credit unions, public safety and law enforcement officers, employers who are required by state and federal law to use credit histories for employment purposes, and other employment if credit history is "substantially job-related" and the use of the credit check is disclosed in writing. The bill does not give any guidance on what it means for a credit check to be "substantially job-related," but we're assuming that courts will construe that requirement very narrowly.

Oregon employers who are currently using credit checks as part of their employment processes should make sure they fit into one of the exceptions and, if not, find alternatives by July 1. The law only prohibits the use of credit history, so other background checks - such as criminal background checks - are not affected.