Credit History Information in Employment
Most employers cannot legally obtain or use, for employment purposes, an applicant or employee’s credit history information.
Q: What does “credit history” mean?
A: ORS 659A.320(4), defines “credit history” as any communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency that bears on a consumer’s creditworthiness, credit standing or credit capacity.
Q: What does the law prohibit?
A: It is unlawful to obtain or use for employment purposes an applicant’s or employee’s credit history information. The law also specifically prohibits the refusal to hire or to promote, the termination, discipline or demotion of, or the retaliation or discrimination against an applicant or employee based on that individual’s credit history.
Q: Are all employers covered by the law?
A: No. The law makes exceptions for: 1) federally insured banks and credit unions, 2) for law enforcement agencies (the exception applies to continuing employees, without mentioning applicants) and 3) for employers that are required by law to use individual credit histories for employment purposes. Finally, there is an exception for employers that obtain or use credit history information because it is “substantially job-related” and only then if the reasons for use of the information are disclosed in writing to the employee or applicant.
Q: What does “substantially job-related” mean?
A: Credit history information is substantially job-related by definition if: (1) an essential function of the job requires access to financial information not customarily required in a retail transaction other than a loan or extension of credit (i.e., beyond check information, credit card numbers or debit card numbers); or (2) the employer is required to obtain credit history information as a condition of bonding or insuring the employee.
Employers should use the substantially job-related exception with care. For many positions, such as mechanics, cashiers, receptionists, housekeepers and wait-staff, a credit history is not going to be substantially job-related. On the other hand, if an essential job function of an employee requires that employee to obtain such things as financial institution account numbers and amounts and sources of income, the employer could make an argument that obtaining that clerk’s credit history information is “substantially job-related” and therefore permissible.
Nothing on this website is intended as legal advice. Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them, and not intended to apply to any other situations. This communication is not an agency order. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney. We attempt to update the information on this website as soon as practicable following changes or developments in the laws and rules affecting Oregon employers, but we make no warranties or representations, express or implied, about whether the information provided is current. We urge you to check the applicable statutes and administrative rules yourself and to consult with legal counsel prior to taking action that may invoke employee rights or employer responsibilities or omitting to act when required by law to act.
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