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Credit Checks – 10.26.2010When an offer for employment is extended to a candidate, it is pro forma for the employer to arrange with a third party service to perform a background check that includes court records, drivers license and motor vehicle reports, and credit histories that sometimes includes credit scores. The credit-check aspect of this process is coming under fire in a number of states over concerns of discriminatory practices associated with screening out individuals who have credit issues. As I learned more about this situation, it raised a concern that I had not previously focused on. Over the past two years the severe recession has taken its toll on individuals who otherwise have had pristine credit histories, but now find themselves in financial straits with correspondingly weak credit scores. Many background credit checks are limited to screens for bankruptcy, liens and other similar information, and do not include credit scores which vary from one credit agency to another. It’s a touchy subject, but prospective employees must sign a waiver before a background check can be performed, so it may be worth asking if credit scores are included in the report. Employers clearly have the right to know about credit history, but I do not believe that credit scores belong in the mix.

Tony LoPinto is a senior client partner and head of Korn//Ferry International’s Real Estate Practice and founder of SelectLeaders. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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