On February 15, 2017, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed Bill 21-244, which amends the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination in hiring with respect to an individual’s credit information. Specifically, the Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act of 2016 prohibits employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from (1) discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of credit information; (2) directly or indirectly requiring, requesting, suggesting or causing an employee to submit credit information; and (3) from using, accepting, referring to, or asking about an employee’s credit information. “Credit information” is any written, oral, or other communication of information bearing on an employee’s creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, or credit history.
An applicant or employee claiming a violation of the Act may file a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. Violations of the Act will result in a $1,000 fine for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation, and $5,000 for each subsequent violation.
The Act does not apply to the following situations:
- Where the law requires employers to collect credit information;
- Where an employee is applying for a position as or is employed as a police officer with the Metropolitan Police Department, as a special police officer or campus police officer;
- To the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia;
- Where an employee must possess a security clearance under District law;
- To disclosures of credit information by District government employees to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability or the Office of the Inspector General, or to the use of such disclosures by those agencies;
- To financial institutions, where the position involves access to personal financial information; or
- Where an employer requests or receives credit information pursuant to a lawful subpoena, court order, or law enforcement investigation.
The Act will be effective after a 30-day period of Congressional review and provided Congress does not block implementation of the Act. With this measure, the District of Columbia joins several states, including Maryland, which prohibit the use of such information in an employer’s hiring decisions. If the Act becomes law, DC employers should revisit and revise policies requiring or requesting credit information to ensure compliance.