Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quinn likely to tick off the “right” by doing the right thing on credit check law

I understand the theory – someone who has a habit of not paying their bills on time is probably unreliable in other aspects of life.

Which is how employers and the people who want to take the side of companies over their employees try to justify the practice of doing a credit check on someone who is being considered for a job.

IT IS A practice that has been on the rise – the Society for Human Resources Management says that 60 percent of employers perform a credit check on some job applicants – up significantly from the 25 percent who did so back in 1998.

It also is a practice that has been put in check by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly. Earlier this year, the Legislature gave approval to a bill placing limits on the circumstances under which a company can do a credit check on a prospective employee.

Quinn signed that bill into law earlier this week. It now takes effect on Jan. 1.

Companies that persist in doing credit checks that do not fit into the specific categories allowed by the law can be sued for damages and injunctive relief.

MY MIND IS already envisioning the many ways that the Quinn critics are going to try to bash him as being anti-business for supporting this measure. I’m waiting to see if this particular bill-signing winds up being the factual basis of some sort of negative campaign advertisement against the governor.

What kind of hysterical rhetoric will they use?

I wish I could say I was being paranoid. But I am realistic enough to know that campaigns become about distortion, with the idea that the winner’s distortions become fact and the loser’s distortions become forgotten because “nobody remembers the losers.”

Personally, I am pleased that Quinn would take such action. Although before I go further, I should concede that my own credit reports likely are less than perfect. I haven’t looked at them in a while, but there is a good chance that the stints of unemployment I endured during the past decade threw me off-whack enough in bill payment that it still shows up on my credit history.

BUT PERHAPS THAT merely makes me realize that Quinn is not being absurd when he cites the fact that the current economic struggles that have left many people out of work should not be allowed to impact their ability to get a job in the future.

“A job seeker’s ability to earn a decent living should not depend on how well they are weathering the greatest economic recession since the 1930s,” Quinn said, in a prepared statement.

After all, the solution to many of the financial problems experienced by people is to find steady employment. Or, to adopt the mentality of the conservatives who are most likely to criticize Quinn for this bill, they should “get off their duffs and get a job!”

How much should past problems be an impact on someone’s future attempts to overcome problems?

IT’S JUST THAT the idea of a credit check always seemed to me to be an overrated factor in determining someone’s character. Perhaps if someone were being considered for a position where they were going to be handling a company’s finances or put in charge of paying its bills, then it MIGHT be relevant.

Or, maybe not.

Basically, I don’t believe the credit history is anything similar to a criminal record or the kind of investigation a company will conduct of a prospective employee to ensure that everything they’re claiming on their resume is actually true.

Those background checks I can understand (particularly the latter, since I have seen way too many cases of people puffing up their resumes). And no one is talking about scaling them back.

YET I’M SURE there will be those on the “right” who will insist that I am somehow misguided, and that Quinn is hurting the ability of business to conduct itself in a responsible manner.

It just always dismays me to learn that some people in our society think that responsible behavior means oppressive behavior – and not just on this one issue. I’d like to think the bulk of the people of Illinois will see through this upcoming cheap political rhetoric and regard it as the desperate attempts of some politico to score a few points against Quinn.

I have one other reason for feeling the need to write this particular commentary. A part of me feels a sense of fairness requires me to point out one thing that Quinn does these days that wasn’t a complete gaffe.

Because I’m sure that I will have significant fun at Quinn’s expense during the next two-and-a-half months over the many issues and items that he will bungle. At least this measure is evidence that the governor isn’t a complete boob.


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