State bill divides Yale, unions

A bill restricting Connecticut employers from using credit reports in hiring decisions has pitted the University against its unions once again.

State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, who represents half of New Haven and a majority of Yale’s central campus, introduced the bill in January in response to complaints that applicants were discriminated against because of their bad credit scores. Representatives from both the University and UNITE Here — the umbrella organization for Yale’s unions — filed written testimony before the bill went before the Labor and Public Employees Committee in a hearing last week. It is unclear whether the committee will consider Yale’s concerns before the bill comes up for a vote within the committee today.

In a letter to the Labor and Public Employees Committee, Richard Jacob, the associate vice president for state and federal affairs, requested that the bill be amended to allow greater flexibility in specific cases. Jacob asked that employers be allowed to run credit checks on individuals applying for jobs that entail legal responsibility or otherwise require greater trust.

“There are certain aspects of the Yale’s operations, such as positions that have access to cash or other assets, that require an even higher level of trust than other University positions,” Jacob said in an e-mail to the News Wednesday. “For that reason the University believes it can be appropriate to use credit reports as part of a broader set of information used in employment decisions.”

The insurance policies covering Yale’s museum and library holdings require the University to review credit reports when hiring employees, Jacob said.

But Sen. Edith Prague, the co-chair of the Labor and Public Employee Committee, said she expected the bill to come to a vote today without any changes, though she added that she has yet to review Jacob’s letter. She said she is concerned with the arbitrary way in which credit scores are assigned.

“There are many mistakes made by these credit companies,” Prague said. “They go back years, and within that period of time there could be many changes in a person’s credit history.”

Gwen Mills, the UNITE Here political field director, delivered written testimony to the committee on Feb. 14 calling the use of credit scores in the hiring process “discriminatory.” She also said that requiring credit checks in the job application process creates a “catch-22” for individuals seeking to salvage their personal finances after being laid off. Because they have missed payments in the past, unemployed individuals’ credit scores fall, and they cannot get hired for the jobs that will allow them to catch up on future bill payments.

“Connecticut workers seeking to regain economic security should not face a permanent barrier to employment that punishes them for the current economic recession,” Mills said in the letter.

Mills also cited credit histories’ inaccuracies and inability to predict job performance as reasons why they should not be allowed in making hiring decisions.

UNITE Here spokesman Evan Cobb had not yet seen Jacob’s proposed changes when the News contacted him Wednesday and declined to comment on specifics. While he said that some exceptions could be appropriate, Cobb stressed that using credit scores in hiring is unfair to applicants.

Although Sen. Looney is not on the committee which votes today, he said he might be amenable to changes that allow the use of credit reports in specific fields.

“If someone is applying for a job in financial services, that would certainly be a relevant consideration,” Looney said. “But if someone is applying for a job digging ditches, it probably would not be relevant.”

Last year, Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, then the associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs, wrote a letter requesting similar changes to a comparable bill restricting employers from using credit history in hiring decisions. That bill already contained many of Jacob’s proposed changes, but never made it out of the Judiciary Committee.

Comments

  • Andreology

    Why is the state micromanaging hiring decisions? If I’m a superb ditchdigger, I will have no problem finding a job, and employers will be eager to hire me. This legislation is a way of protecting people who are not really competent at their jobs.

  • harbinger

    Economic hardship not of your own fault shouldn’t be a barrier to employment. You may be a fine ditchdigger, but if no one hires you and you fall behind on your bills you may never get the chance to show your prowess with a shovel again.