On January 10, 2012, a bill was introduced (S455) that would prohibit employers from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee as a condition of employment unless the employer is required to do so by law or reasonably believes that an employee had engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law. The bill was promptly approved by the Senate Labor Committee on February 9.

The bill would not prohibit an employer from having an applicant undergo a credit check if credit history is an established “bona fide occupational requirement” of the position, but that exception is narrowly defined. For instance, under the limited exception employers would not be able to require credit histories for retail cashier positions who deal with cash on a constant basis, but would be able to require credit histories from individuals who, if hired, would have the authority to issue payments or transfer money on behalf of the employer. The bill also would prohibit employment discrimination based upon information in an employee’s credit report, and would provide civil damages including compensatory and consequential damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as a civil penalty (collected by the Department of Labor) of up to $2,000 for the first offense and up to $5,000 for a subsequent offense.

A similar bill (S1102) was introduced on January 23. That bill closely tracks S455, but provides for slightly higher civil penalties ($5,000 to $10,000).

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