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Ear to the Ground

Elizabeth Warren’s New Bill Aims to Stop Employers Discriminating Against the Poor

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Posted on Dec 17, 2013
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Citing “basic fairness” as motivation for introducing a bill that would prevent employers from using credit reports as criteria when hiring a new employee, Warren, along with six other senators, is once again fighting battles for the disadvantaged. According to the Massachusetts Democrat, employment should be based on merit, not whether potential workers “have enough money to pay all their bills.” Employers often use credit scores to weed out poorer applicants despite the fact that studies show these numbers have nothing to do with productivity or dedication, but the Equal Employment for All Act introduced Tuesday would prohibit this form of discrimination from taking place.

“A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is a reflection on an individual’s character or abilities,” Warren said. “Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. ...”

The Equal Employment for All Act would therefore help families get back on their feet rather than allow companies to kick them while they’re down, but would also go a long way toward helping others. The bill, for example, would assist women, who are often more financially affected by divorce and more likely to receive subprime loans, as well as minorities, who can be racially discriminated against during the hiring process through the veiled excuse of credit reports. And these reports can often be flawed and difficult to correct, according to a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission.

“It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and that can be riddled with inaccuracies,” explained Warren, hitting the problem on the nose as she so often does.

And, according to Mother Jones, support for Warren’s bill is widespread:

The bill, which is backed by over 40 community, financial reform, labor and civil rights organizations, would be a boon for low-wage workers, minority communities, and women….

Chi Chi Wu, a staff lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, told the New York Times in May that most of the people who contacted her group complaining that they’d been denied a job because of poor credit were low-wage workers applying to big retail chains. “Someone loses their job,” she said, “so they can’t pay their bills—and now they can’t get a job because they couldn’t pay their bills because they lost a job? It’s this Catch-22 that makes no sense.”

There is ample support for the senators’ bill. In 2011, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced a similar bill in the House. Nine states have adopted legislation that curbs the use of credit reports to in the hiring process.

The Equal Employment for All Act was introduced just weeks after think tank Third Way attempted to mount a smear campaign against Warren, writing that the Democratic Party should be advised against following her over the “populist cliff.” Also aware of how effective the senator is at getting under Wall Street’s skin, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently gave a speech to Goldman Sachs and friends in which she took the opportunity to reassure banksters that we’re all in this fight against the recession “together” because we’re all to blame for the mess made. As a Politico piece on the speech explained, this statement could clearly be interpreted as “Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop.”

Interesting, that word “together,” because while it is true that Bill Clinton’s administration and Wall Street were the biggest culprits in this recession, the Clintons continue to rake up exorbitant speaking fees (Hillary got $400,000 for her last two Goldman Sachs brown-nosing sessions) and the banksters receive bailouts while the rest of the U.S. continues to be punished for their mistakes. If there’s one thing becoming clearer every day is that some politicians are sincerely concerned about raising Americans out of this seemingly endless recession while others are nothing but self-interested panderers eager to win elections.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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