Job Seekers with Bad Credit Fallback ‘Cause You Ain’t Getting Hired

Can you get employment with bad credit? Can you get housing with bad credit?  This is an incredibly important story that I hope everyone pays attention to and pushes to make sure lawmakers use their resources, power and influence to lessen the harm this dilemma is causing. Why has credit suddenly become a driving determination for your eligibility for employment?  This has been America’s dirty little secret during the worse economy since the Great Depression. Major props to Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post and her excellent article on this topic-Are Credit Checks Keeping The Jobless Out Of Work?

Talk about kicking a person while they’re down and out, we now have employers who are now looking at your inability to keep up with bills after you been laid off for downsizing or some other ‘out of control’ circumstance as a primary criteria. We won’t even talk about what its like to get housing with bad credit. This is compounded by ajob market that in some places like California where unemployment is 12%. Here in Oakland its 20%. Such numbers have already allowed potential employers to be extra picky. Heck if you walk into a job interview and you have a wrinkle in your shirt, that can be used against you. But with this credit check situation being used as weeding out tool, this points to us as a country moving in a rapid direction to create a large, permanent underclass. Here’s what Bassett penned;

While the credit check has always been a routine part of the job application process, experts are wondering whether it’s still a fair screening tool in the wake of a recession that has left 15 million Americans unemployed and unable to keep up with their bills.

In a meeting of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission last week to discuss the use of credit history as a discriminatory barrier to employment, a panel of legal experts and social scientists explained how the screening practice may be harmful and unfair to American workers.

“A simple reason to oppose the use of credit history for job applications is the sheer, profound absurdity of the practice,” said Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “Using credit history creates a grotesque conundrum. Simply put, a worker who loses her job is likely to fall behind on paying her bills due to lack of income. With the increasing use of credit reports, this worker now finds herself shut out of the job market because she’s behind on her bills. This phenomenon has created concerns that the unemployed and debt-ridden could form a luckless class.”

According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 60 percent of all organizations polled said they conducted background checks on applicants, and 17 percent in the Northeast reported that favorable background check results are the most important factor influencing the final decision of whether to hire someone.

Considering the fact that more than half of all working adults in America have either been unemployed, taken a pay cut, had their work hours reduced or become involuntary part-time workers since the beginning of the recession, more and more job applicants are hampered by blemishes on their credit reports in the search for a steady salary.

How does one handle  such a horrific catch-22?  You lose your job, you fall behind, your credit slips. The less opportunity you have to get a job your credit falls even more. At the very least its puts an employee in a super subservient position where out of desperation they will do literally anything to keep a job in spite of bad credit, including working less than minimum wage, putting up with abusive behavior or unsafe conditions at work.

We need to hear our leaders be more forceful in pushing potential employers to not punish those who've economically fallen behind

Personally its been the one thing I been frustrated at NOT hearing about from those in leadership. I been wanting to hear President Obama and talk emphatically about this during his campaign stomps. I been wanting to hear him say say that he would be working with corporations or at least encouraging them to remove or at the very least back off doing credit checks. This would be a clear indications that not only jobs are a major focus, but that he’s also aware and in touch with those who are without.

Anyone who is falling behind, knows quite well that not everyone is willing to help. Try getting a break on parking tickets especially after they gone to collections. Try talking to some of these banks who got bailed out, but wont back off on conditions that would help bail you out. Then we have these new aggressive debt collection companies who have brought up old debts for pennies on the dollar and are now suing people to collect. They definitely aren’t trying to work with you.

This brings me to my last point. far too many people who are doing ok, have been oblivious and overtly insensitive to this scenario. I’ve had more than a few conversations with people who should know better where they arrogantly assume that escaping bad credit hell is easy or that its the height of one being irresponsible that landed folks in that predicament. I’ve had conversations with people where they say things like; ‘Cant you get a loan from your parents’? or ‘Don’t you have any frioends who can spot you some money?’ Here’s the worse one ‘Why don’t you just get a second job so you can catch up with your bills?’

Such remarks indicate there’s an unawareness of what its like for folks who have been desperately searching for work, many for over a year. Not everyone has the same network of friends and family who can come to the rescue. This is especially true for those who are older and are now playing the role of care-giver for parents and other elders in their family. Its not so easy to get up and bounce back or even sleep on someone’s counch when trying to keep a family together or care for an elder who is sick.

The other dirty secret is that many employers aren’t particularly interested in hiring folks who are older, when they have a younger pool they can pay lower wages without benefits. Many within that younger pool will accept subpar job situations and chalk it up to ‘paying dues’. I know when I first sought out my dream job in the music biz, I worked for damn near free for more than a year just to get my foot in the door. I had the comfort of inexpensive student housing with 3 roommates. I also had an array of odd jobs including deejaying which allowed me to get by.  If anything fell apart I had the option of going home or couch surfing. For many it’s not that type of party, not to mention not having your own place can be looked at as you not ‘being responsible’.

The bad credit excuse although being spoken about now in a very public way, is not new for many who live in marginalized and poor communities. not sure if there are any studies, but many of us have heard or actually experienced situation where the credit history was used to shut folks down. Oftentimes it appeared to be used selectively.

At the end of the day, all of us are going to have to pull together and be a bit more aware of those around us. One’s fortunes can be turned upside down at any moment and the worse thing to have happen is to be in position where you’re in dire straits after thumbing your nose at others  the week before.

Something to ponder

-Davey D-

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