D.C. Law on Use of Credit Reports in Employment

D.C. employers may not consider credit information in making employment decisions, except in very narrow circumstances.

In 2017, the District of Columbia passed a law that significantly restricts an employer’s ability to consider the credit information of an applicant or employee. Under the law, most employers cannot ask about or rely on someone’s credit report, credit history, or credit worthiness when making employment decisions, such as hiring, promotions, discipline, or layoffs. The law includes a handful of narrow exceptions, covered below. (Learn about federal restrictions on ordering credit reports of employees or applicants.)

Use of Credit Information is Prohibited

Unless one of the exceptions below applies, D.C. employers may not ask about, or require employees or applicants to submit, credit information. For example, employers may not ask questions about credit history on application forms or in interviews. Employers also may not check credit history or pull credit reports, whether as a standalone inquiry or as part of a more comprehensive background check. If an employer receives credit information that it did not request, it may not rely on that information in making any employment decisions.

Exceptions for Certain Employers

Employers may inquire about or consider credit information in making employment decisions if one of the following seven exceptions applies:

  • the law requires the employer to obtain the person’s credit information
  • the person is applying for specified law enforcement positions
  • the person needs a security clearance under D.C. law
  • credit information about the person must be submitted to the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer
  • credit information about certain employees of the D.C. government must be provided to the Office of the Inspector General or the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability
  • the employer is following a lawful court order or cooperating in a law enforcement investigation, or
  • the person is applying for a position that would require accessing personal financial information, such as certain jobs at a bank or other financial institution.

How the Law is Enforced

If you believe your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. Employers that are found to have violated the law can be required to pay a fine of $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation, and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. This fine is payable to the employee.

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