Years ago I went to college to study accounting, and like millions of other Americans I took out loans to pay for it. A few years later I got a temporary job in the accounting department at Bain & Co., and after 6 months of reliable work I was thrilled to be offered a full-time position.
However, just a few weeks after starting in my new position the company fired me because my debt-to-credit ratio was too high. I later learned that 60% of employers now check credit reports, which typically include student debts. How are you supposed to pay off your student debts if you can’t get (or keep) a job BECAUSE of your debts? And what do my student debts have to do with my ability to do a job well anyway?
25 states have debated bills in the last year to restrict this practice, and in a number of these states one company has fought hardest against these efforts: credit reporting company TransUnion.
What’s ironic is that Penny Pritzker, TransUnion’s Chair and part owner, sits on President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, which advises the President on putting Americans back to work. How can someone advise on national job creation when her company sells products that may keep qualified people out of work?
Please join me and 25 national civil rights organizations in calling on TransUnion to stop its sale of credit reports to employers. As the only one of the “Big 3” credit reporting companies that’s privately held, TransUnion has the ability to stop this practice overnight.
It was recently announced that in the coming weeks TransUnion will be sold to two private equity companies, including Goldman Sachs. If Penny Pritzker is serious about job creation, she should do what she can to ensure that her company stops this abusive practice before the company is sold.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE: TransUnion has been sold to Goldman Sachs and a private equity partner. Ms. Pritzker is no longer affiliated with TransUnion. As the new owner of TransUnion, financial giant Goldman Sachs has a responsibility to end this abusive practice now.
I'm calling on TransUnion to discontinue its sale of employment credit reports for four main reasons:
First, credit checks in hiring create a fundamental "Catch-22" for job applicants: you can't pay your bills because you've lost your job or your hours were cut, and now you can't get a job because you can't pay your bills.
Second, the use of credit in hiring has a discriminatory impact on African American and Latino job applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has expressed concern that credit checks in employment may violate the Civil Rights Act, and has sued two employers over it.
Third, credit history does not predict job performance. Even TransUnion itself admitted in one legislative debate: "At this point we don't have any research to show any statistical correlation between what's in somebody's credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud."
Finally, credit reports are inaccurate. A 2007 Zogby poll reported that 37% of people surveyed found an error on their credit report, and half of these respondents reported that they could not easily fix the mistakes.
TransUnion has stated that credit reports are the "de facto economic passport for every individual in this country, whether you like it or not." I believe that hard work and dedication, not hiring tools with a discriminatory impact such as credit reports, should be the economic passport for working people.
I’m joining Latoya and over twenty five national civil rights organizations by calling on TransUnion to end this practice by stopping its sale of credit reports to employers immediately!