A high score is good and a low score is bad. That sums up the basic idea behind your three digit credit score. And unless you are applying for a house or a new credit card, your credit score number is your business. That may be your thought process, but there are instances in which a Washington employer can legally check an applicant’s credit report.
The purpose behind the credit check varies from Washington employer to employer. It is more common for a credit check before hiring a candidate (think of it as a unique interview question) but checking a current employee may happen as well. The good news for employees is that Washington was one of the first states in the nation to regulate this process by demanding that employees are put on notice before any type of credit check takes place. Additionally, the state of Washington has limited the circumstances in which an employer can seek this information and also put additional notices in place in order to ensure that employees are given a chance to make corrections.
The connection between job performance and financial responsibility is attenuated to begin with and other states including Hawaii and Oregon have also passed legislation reflecting that thought process. That is good news for employee privacy.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers are legally required to obtain the written consent of a current or potential employee before checking his or her credit worthiness.
In addition to consent, Washington employers are also required to do the following:
-Provide potential employees notice before using a credit report as part of their basis for an employment decision
-Provide the potential employee with the name and contact details of the reporting agency where they obtained the credit report, making it easier for them to go directly to the source with any disputes
-Provide current and potential employees a chance to contest any negative information contained on the report
US News and World Report reports that nearly 40% of employers run credit checks on job applicants. Whether you agree with the process or not, knowing the increasing potential for a credit check should inspire many of you to check your report before an employer does and work to raise or maintain a desirable number. Mistakes are very common on credit reports and it is much easier to dispute it now than have to rush to make changes when faced with questions about a low score by a future employer for a job you are otherwise eligible for.
If you are a Washington employer wanting to make sure that your policies comport with Washington law, be sure to get in touch with a Washington employment attorney. In many instances, there is a fine line between legal employee research and invasion of privacy.