skeletons-in-the-closet.jpgRight now, if you have a history of bad credit, or a criminal conviction, employers can pretty much throw you resume in the trash bin.

But there’s a growing movement in this country to discourage hiring managers from delving into your past. Some states are considering legislation to ban credit screening of applicants; and the federal government will soon be introducing new guidelines that will make it harder to use a person’s run ins with the law as part of the application process.

Employers argue they need this information to make an informed decision about an applicant, and to even keep the workplace safe. But such practices end up destroying people’s lives because they deny them a livelihood.

My colleague at John Shoen recently wrote a great piece on how credit screening is impacting job seekers.

The story quotes Debra Banks, 54, who was denied a job because of her credit history, a history tainted by huge medical bills because she had been without insurance.

“I understand a background check,” Banks said. “But I can’t see how your credit relates to your work. I had more than proved my worthiness as an employee. I didn’t steal anything. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

This is exactly the type of situation legislators want to protect working stiffs against.

About 16 states are now mulling legislation that would ban such credit screening. (Hawaii and Washington states are the only states where such screenings are restricted.)

This from Inc. magazine:

In most states, employers can check job applicants and current employees’ histories for overdue payments on mortgages, credit cards, loans, rent and more. Credit checks are viewed as part of a hiring strategy to prevent putting at-risk or untrustworthy applicants into positions where they could do harm to the company.

But opponents call the practice discriminatory and unnecessary.

Wisconsin State Rep. Kim Hixton proposed legislation banning discriminatory credit checks for jobs not substantially related to an individual’s credit history. He tells that while he can see relevance of personal finances to the hiring of an investment banker, for a truck driver, librarian or gym employee, it’s irrelevant, and should be illegal.

And some believe certain screening practices may be used as a way to discriminate against applicants. So, if an employer doesn’t really want to hire a minority they may screen that individual hoping to come up with a prior conviction or something else in their past that can tarnish the application.

To deal with this, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to come out with new guidelines in a year or so that will require employers to defend such screening practices by proving that they indeed have an impact on the job at hand.

This from Workforce Management magazine:

Employers spend billions on criminal checks and often base hiring decisions on the results without evidence of the return on the investment or the efficacy of the decisions. The absence of empirical evidence will soon become more than a question of effective screening and hiring practices.

Within the next 12 to 18 months, employers can expect to see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issue new guidelines that require empirical evidence for the “business necessity” defense in racial discrimination cases that arise from screening and hiring practices, according to Rod Fliegel, a partner at Littler Mendelson in San Francisco. The new guidelines are likely to upend hiring policies based on untested assumptions about criminality and workplace behaviors.

It’s all good news for employees who want to put their pasts behind them and earn a living. But it will make it harder for employers who often want to have as much information about an applicant before offering them a job.

What’s your take? Does a person’s skeletons in their closet foretell the type of employee they will be?

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