New Hampshire Senate OKs bills to ban employer use of credit checks, salary history in hiring

Surprise approval sends measures to governor’s desk

Employers won’t be able to ask job applicants about their salary history or run credit checks on them if two bills passed by the New Hampshire Legislature become law.

In a surprise move, the Senate on Thursday narrowly voted for both bills, despite the lack of a recommendation from its Commerce Committee, sending them to Gov. Chris Sununu for his signature.

Senate Bill 298 would prohibit employers from running a credit check for both applicants and employees in decisions relating to employment, but it would exempt financial institutions and governments and other institutions where credit checks are required by federal law. It would also allow credit checks for employees in managerial positions, or those with access to personal and financial information, or those that have financial responsibilities or access to the company credit card.

“It prevents an employer from intruding into our personal and private lives,” said Sen. Sherman, D-Rye, on the Senate floor. “There is no evidence that doing a credit history check is any predictive factor on an employee’s performance.”

“This bill provides an economic opportunity for people who – for sometimes reasons unknown to them – get dinged on their credit score,” added Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord.

But, countered Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, “A credit check is not a weapon, it’s a tool. We are making government an adversary of business rather than being supportive of business. As an employer, I have a right to know.”

When asked why an employer would have that right, he responded, “People who have a low credit score are a risk for theft.”

Salary history

The second bill, SB 211, would prohibit an employer from requiring prospective employees to disclose their salary history before making them an offer, nor could they use their prior history as a defense if they are sued because of discrimination. An applicant could voluntarily disclose that information.

Supporters of the bill have argued that questions about salary history reinforce the wage gap, by gender and by race, by basing current salary on one that was unfairly low in the past. Opponents countered that it removes another important tool for an employer.

“These pieces of legislation are nothing more than another attack on the business community by Senate Democrats,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse, R-Salem. “Credit and salary history are important parts of an employee background check that can tell you a lot about that person.”

The Senate passed both bills by 13-11 margins. Since the Senate amended neither bill, both will go to Governor Sununu, who could sign them, let them become law without his signature or veto them. Both bills failed to pass by enough of a margin in either legislative chamber to overcome a veto.

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