Most New York City employers would soon be barred from using credit checks in their hiring processes, according to a human rights law amendment that passed overwhelmingly Thursday in the City Council.
Its advocates -- led by Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and including the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union -- said an applicant's consumer credit history has no correlation to their future job performance, and credit checks can be used to discriminate.
"Credit checks for employment unfairly lock New Yorkers out of jobs for a whole set of unfair reasons: divorce, health care debt, student loans, identity theft, simple errors," Lander said at a City Hall news conference. Those most likely to have poor credit are people of color, he said.
The measure passed 47-3, with one council member absent.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to say whether he would sign it. De Blasio spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh said "credit discrimination is oftentimes an unnecessary obstacle to New Yorkers getting jobs."
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Queens) voted against the bill, likening the restrictions to those of a "nanny state" and later saying it is difficult to prove definitively that credit problems were the reason an applicant was rejected.
Positions exempted from the law would include chief financial officer-like posts with authority over company or third-party funds or assets worth more than $10,000, police officers, elected officials and others who must report their finances to the Conflicts of Interest Board, and those with access to intelligence, national security information or trade secrets.
Kathryn Wylde, president of the pro-business Partnership for New York City, in a statement said her group worked closely with the City Council and de Blasio's office to ensure the "final legislation allows employers some discretion in use of credit checks, which we hope proves sufficient to protect the interests of businesses and consumers."
New York City's proposed law is tougher on the financial industries than other similar measures nationwide, Lander said. Ten states and the city of Chicago have restrictions on employers' use of credit checks.