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In NM, Your Credit Score Can Sink Your Job Prospects

Photo: New Mexico state Sen. Bill O’Neill is concerned about what he's heard from job-seekers, and tried to help with a bill to protect the privacy of their credit scores. Courtesy NM State Senate.
Photo: New Mexico state Sen. Bill O’Neill is concerned about what he's heard from job-seekers, and tried to help with a bill to protect the privacy of their credit scores. Courtesy NM State Senate.
May 6, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. - Problems with credit can be extremely painful for the unemployed. Credit issues can affect a person's insurance rates, utility deposit requirements - and in some cases, keep a person from making money, too. State Sen. Bill O'Neill (D-Bernalillo) sponsored recent legislation to keep credit scores out of the employment arena in New Mexico. It received bipartisan support, but the governor squashed it, by saying such a law could limit an employer's ability to efficiently screen applicants. O'Neill disagreed.

"She said, 'While I sympathize with the bill's intent to ensure that all job applicants are considered for employment, this bill would require New Mexico business owners to interview candidates that they had already determined do not meet their hiring qualifications.', he said."

His proposal was modest in terms of what it asked businesses to do, O'Neill said, and even allowed credit scores to be considered when a hiring process was far enough along. A new law would have made a difference, he added, especially in keeping applicants from being dropped from consideration in mass hirings conducted by large employers. He promised not to give up on the idea.

O'Neill shared the real-life story of a woman in Santa Fe.

"She is in her late 20s, single mom, hard worker. She applied to some of these big stores, and received a letter saying that she was not going to be interviewed because of her credit score."

The senator said he is disappointed that the bill didn't pass, when it included compromises that he said made it palatable to both parties. He plans to try again, he said.

"I fully intend to sponsor this next year and the year after, and potentially put a little more teeth into it as well," he said. "This isn't going to go away. Why are personal credit scores relevant?"

One credit company apparently agrees that there is no relationship between a person's credit scores and job performance. Equifax said it no longer provides credit scores to companies looking to hire.

SB 128 can be reviewed at http://1.usa.gov.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM