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PRESS RELEASE: At Final Legislative Meeting, D.C. Council Passes McDuffie Bills to Fight Discrimination Against Returning Citizens and Those Affected by Poor Credit

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Washington, DC – Today, the D.C. Council passed two bills reflecting Councilmember McDuffie’s priorities for working people and returning citizens.

Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016 [Bill 21-706]

This bill – often called “Ban the Box for Housing” – limits what aspects of a person’s criminal record housing providers from consider when evaluating an applicant for tenancy. Crimes committed more than seven years ago may not be considered and neither can arrests that did not result in a conviction. This legislation also prohibits housing providers from asking about any criminal history until after a conditional offer is made. Included in the bill is a list of crimes that are allowed to be considered; these crimes include murder in the first degree, arson, burglary, sexual assault, and aggravated assault. This legislation does not apply to rental buildings with 4 or fewer units, one of which is owner-occupied.

Upon passage of this emergency legislation, Councilmember McDuffie said: “This legislation will assist in the successful reintegration of returning citizens by removing barriers to securing adequate housing. Housing providers need to take a holistic, case-by-case approach for housing applications instead of utilizing blanket denials.  To accomplish this, the bill prohibits a housing provider from making an inquiry into or requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction or pending criminal accusation prior to making a conditional offer for housing.”

Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act of 2016 [Bill 21-244]

This bill prohibits employers from considering an applicant or current employee’s credit history. Fines for violations of the Act are 1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation, and $5,000 for any subsequent violation. Nearly half of employers check an employee’s credit history when hiring for some or all positions, and its use often determines whether an applicant is hired. However, credit history is not a very good indicator of how a person will perform as an employee. Furthermore, poor credit history more frequently affects low-income individuals, women, and people of color, which in turn informs the employability of applicants from those backgrounds.

Upon passage, Councilmember McDuffie said: “The use of credit history in employment not only does not achieve its intended goal, but in practice it frequently winds up being discriminatory. People with poor credit history are often not in that position through any fault of their own, but because of a negative life events such as job loss or medical debt, the consequences of systemic, historic wealth inequality, and economic downturns like the Great Recession. So we see a cycle where people hit hard times and then cannot find a good job, leading to further personal financial difficultly. With this bill, we hope to break that cycle.”


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