Council to weigh ban on credit checks during hiring process

A proposal by two Boston City Councillors could lead to a ban on credit checks by companies based in Boston when screening prospective employees. Council President Kim Janey and Councillor Andrea Campbell jointly filed the proposed amendment on Aug. 19. It will be referred to the Council’s Committee on Government Operations for a hearing. 

Campbell explained that the issue was first brought to her attention by constituents who told her that their credit or consumer reports were “being used against them in the city employment process.” Campbell initially sought to change the hiring practice in 2016 with then-Councillor Ayanna Pressley.

The ordinance would make it an “unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to seek, procure or use credit information regarding an employee or an applicant in connection with hiring, discharge promotion discipline or any other condition of employment.”

Campbell said the ban is even more urgent now.

“With the pandemic and serious financial losses and burdens on Boston residents, this legislation is even more urgent,” she said. “This is indeed an issue of economic empowerment and opportunity. There is no evidence that one’s credit history determines one’s success as an employee, but it can be a significant barrier to obtaining a job.” 

The amendments would include penalties for any employer that engages in an unlawful discriminatory practice related to credit history and a “Purpose and Definitions” section with specific definitions and guidelines. 

Janey noted that discriminatory credit checks “heavily impact low income workers and workers of color in the city.” 

“As we are digging out of our economic downturn— and there’s more to come— I’m hopeful that we will have a hearing soon and that we will be able to move forward on this because it is very much tied to our agenda of creating a more equitable Boston,” said Janey.