NH House votes to limit use of credit history in employment

Inclusion of exceptions fails to change opponents’ minds

An employer would not be able to use information from a credit check to decide whether they want to hire, fire or promote a worker, with some exceptions, if a bill passed last week by the New Hampshire House becomes law.

House Bill 293 would prohibit employers from using credit history in employment decisions, or suffer a Labor Department fine, unless required to use such checks by law or if the check is “substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job.”

The bill says it would be OK do such checks if the employee’s job:

• Is a managerial position involving setting the direction or control of a unit in the business

• Involves a fiduciary responsibility to the employer

• Provides an expense account or a credit or debit card

• Involves access to customers’, employees’ or employer’s personal or financial information, with the exception of “information customary provided in retail transaction.”

It was that retail exemption that opponents of the bill objected to.

“The sticking point was the broad definition of retail transaction, wrote Rep. Lino Avellani, R-Sanbornville, in his report against the bill. “With identity theft and credit card fraud on the rise, we should not take away the employers’ ability of checking a prospective employees’ credit, to ensure they are reasonably qualified to handle customers credit/debit cards and/or personal financial information.”

But Rep. Michael Cahill, D-Newmarket, said on the House floor that a bad credit history is often an impediment to work for someone who was laid off or hacked or was going through a divorce – “all through no fault of their own.”

The House Labor Committee voted in favor of the bill, 12-7. Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, tried to table the bill, arguing that it would have a better chance of becoming law if it satisfied Republican objections, but that motion failed, and the House then passed the measure on a voice vote. The bill next heads to the Senate.

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