On May 10, 2012, three New Jersey assemblywomen introduced a bill (No. 2840) into the State Assembly that would limit employers’ use of credit history and other financial information when making employment decisions. If signed into law, this bill would prohibit most employers from basing their hiring and promotion decisions on a current or prospective employee’s credit history, credit score, credit account balances, payment history, or bank account balances.
The bill exempts certain employers who can establish that credit history and financial information is a bona fide occupational qualification for a particular job. The bill lists certain occupations where credit history is a bona fide occupational qualification, including: managerial positions which involve making financial arrangements for the business; and positions that involve access to customers’ or employees’ personal belongings or financial information. The bill also provides an exemption for certain government and law enforcement agencies.
Violations would include a civil fine not to exceed $2,000 for the first violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, the bill provides for a private cause of action allowing any aggrieved individual to file a lawsuit within one year of the alleged violation.
New Jersey is not alone in seeking to prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of an individual’s credit history. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 39 similar bills have either been introduced or are pending in 20 other states during this 2012 legislative session.
As these bills work their way through the legislative process in each state, employers should monitor their hiring and promotion practices to ensure compliance. Please check back regularly for updates on this legislative initiative.