Effective July 1, 2012, Vermont will be the eighth state to regulate the use of credit-related information for employment purposes. Although similar in many ways to laws already enacted in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington, Vermont’s requirements under Act No. 154 exceed those of other state laws as they prohibit even exempt employers from using an applicant or employee’s credit history as the “sole factor” in employment decisions. Additionally, Vermont exempt employers who take adverse action based in part on a credit history must return the report to the individual or destroy it altogether. Neither the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) nor any of the other similar state laws imposes such a requirement.
Generally, the Act prohibits employers from inquiring into an applicant’s or employee’s credit report or credit history, and further bans employers from discriminating against or making employment decisions (e.g. hire, fire, alter the compensation or any other term or employment condition) based on a credit report or credit history. Notably, credit history in this context includes credit information obtained from any third party that reflects or pertains to an applicant’s or employee’s “borrowing or repaying behavior, financial condition or ability to meet financial obligations,” even if that information is not contained in a “credit report.”
The trend in restricting credit report use for employment purposes will continue as several other states and the federal government are considering comparable legislation. Soon to follow most likely will be New Jersey. In May 31, 2012, the Senate approved S455 that would prohibit employers from seeking credit checks on employees or applicants under most circumstances. A parallel bill (A2840) was introduced by the Assembly on May 11, 2012, and a similar bill (A704) in December 2011.