|Landmark Challenge to the Growing Use of Credit Checks for Hiring|
When Brenda Matthews was offered a job as a patent specialist at the Headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the experienced African American legal assistant informed her employer that she would be leaving for a new job.
Two weeks later, however, after the multi-billion dollar health care products corporation ran a credit check on Ms. Matthews, Johnson & Johnson rescinded the job offer based solely on her credit score.
Personnel experts, however, say that credit scores bear no relation to job performance. Minorities often have lower credit scores because of more limited opportunities to obtain credit.
Today (June 16, 2004) Brenda Matthews is filing a charge of discrimination against Johnson & Johnson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") for violating Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to hire her and other minority job seekers on account of race. Ms. Matthews is represented by attorneys from the law firms of Outten & Golden LLP and Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.
Attorney Adam T. Klein of Outten & Golden LLP said, "Johnson & Johnson's use of credit checks is racial discrimination. Federal civil rights laws prohibit employers from using credit scores and other selection criteria without any relationship to job performance that penalize minority job applicants. That is what happened to Brenda Matthews."
"I believe that Johnson & Johnson discriminated against me because of my race," said Ms. Matthews, "because my credit history has nothing to do with my ability to do my job."
Attorney Bill Lann Lee, former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U. S. Department of Justice explained, "The use of credit checks to screen job applicants is a growing phenomenon among employers. That is unfortunate. Not only are credit scores private information unrelated to job performance, the practice perpetuates prior discrimination in our society against minority families."
"African Americans traditionally have been excluded from credit opportunities that provide positive credit scores," according to Mr. Lee. "Although they have a higher savings rate than whites, blacks have been subject to historic discrimination in the credit market."
After the offer with Johnson & Johnson fell through, Ms. Matthews was forced to tell her current employer that she was not leaving after all. "I was embarrassed and humiliated by the experience," Ms. Matthews said, "and it continues to affect my working environment."
The attorneys are asking anyone who feels they may have faced job discrimination based on their credit score to contact them at: 1-800-971-8881 or to go to the website: www.discriminationcaseagainstjj.com.