Ohio State Senator Ray Miller (D), 15th District, has introduced Senate Bill 91, which would prohibit discrimination by an employer against any person because of that person’s credit history. In short, the bill would amend Ohio’s discrimination laws to include the use of "a person’s credit rating or score or consumer credit history as a factor in making decisions regarding that person’s employment, including hiring, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment."
Though the bill may be well intended, it creates in its current form bad policy for the State of Ohio. There certainly are many jobs out there where an individual’s creditworthiness should have no impact on their ability to successfully perform the functions of their job. On the other hand, certain jobs, such as those that require handling or accounting for the employer’s or the public’s money, do appear to require at least some consideration of the individual’s ability to manage money. The individual’s own personal credit history may be an appropriate indicator of the person’s ability to do those kinds of jobs. The EEOC, which enforces Title VII and other federal discrimination laws, as well as the federal courts, have recognized that employer credit checks can have an unlawful disparate impact against racial and ethnic minorities, but they permit employers to defend the practice by establishing that the individual’s creditworthiness is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. S.B. 91, however, contains no similar exception based on job-relatedness and instead absolutely prohibits employment decisions based on an individual’s credit information. As a result, S.B. 91, in its current form, is another unnecessary and unrestrained limitation on Ohio businesses’ ability to manage their workforce and to compete in our currently dismal economy.