39 Fired Over Poor Credit; Workers Charge Discrimination

Credit discriminationis the new elephant in the room. Workers already struggling to stay afloat in the difficult economy can find their jobs in jeopardy if they have a poor credit history, particularly if they hold a sensitive job or one involving money management or money handling. Debt and bad credit are causing 39 Defense Department workers across the country to lose their jobs at the end of July. While a government spokesperson denied that bad credit is the only factor in the firings, terminated employees charge that credit and debt problems loom large in the department’s decision to let them go. However, according to Philadelphia Employment Lawyer Edith Pearce, this discrimination may not be actionable in Pennsylvania.

Government agencies whose employees handle sensitive documents say debt and poor credit issues place workers at greater risk of temptation. The concern, of course, is that workers will sell sensitive data as a way to end financial woes. While the potential threat to national security may drive the practice in government settings, the concern is not limited to government agencies. The finances of those who hold business positions that involve financial management, bank positions, even retail cashiers are under increased scrutiny. With foreclosures and bankruptcies on the rise, there is concern that employees will be tempted to embezzle funds from employers to make up personal shortfalls.

It’s made for a suspicious work environment that has many crying foul. Consumer advocates complain that workers who most need their jobs to get out from under credit problems are finding their jobs threatened because of their poor credit histories. It’s a vicious cycle from which some workers see little hope of escape.

However, discrimination based upon poor credit may not be illegal or actionable. State and federal laws generally only prohibit employers from discriminating against persons (employees and potential employees) on the basis of race, age, color, sex/gender, national origin, disability, religion, and pregnancy. In certain states and cities, including New Jersey and Philadelphia, sexual orientation is also included. Generally, unless you have been discriminated against due to one of the above reasons, you may not be able to bring a lawsuit. Pennsylvania and most states are “at will employment” states. Thus, the employer can hire and fire for many reasons, unless that reason is due to one of the protected areas of the law (e.g., race, age, color, sex/gender, national origin, disability, and religion).

If you feel you have been discriminated against on the job and need legal advice to determine if you have protection under the law, a lawyer at the the Pearce Law Firm with expertise in employment discrimination can review your case and explain your rights.