New D.C. Law Would Prohibit Employers from Using Credit Information

On February 16, 2017, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an amendment to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.  Titled, the “Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act of 2016,” the new law would prohibit D.C. employers from discriminating based on an employee’s credit information.  The Act passed the D.C. Council unanimously on December 20, 2016.  Under the D.C. Home Rule Act, the bill will go into effect 30 days later, unless Congress blocks it. 

Employers Covered By the Act

The proposed law would apply to businesses, labor organizations, and associations with more than 10 employees, including the District government.  However, the law also contains a number of exemptions, including employees in certain law enforcement positions, some employees working for financial institutions, and employees required to possess a security clearance. 

Prohibited Conduct

The Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act of 2016 prohibits covered employers from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on credit information.  It also prohibits them from requesting, obtaining, or using credit information for any purposes, unless expressly authorized by other law. 

Penalties for Violations

Prospective and current employees who suffer discrimination prohibited by the Act may file an administrative complaint or a civil action. 

The D.C. Office of Human Rights is charged with investigating administrative complaints.  Employers found in violation of the Act may be required to pay fines to the complaining employee.  Those fines range from $1,000 for the first offense, to $2,500 for the second offense, to $5,000 for any subsequent offense. 

Alternatively, employees who file a civil action may be entitled to injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees.