Kick 'Em When They're Down
Traditionally, banks and other industries where security is at a premium have checked the credit of prospective employees. (I got my credit checked when I passed the Foriegn Service Exam). Someone with persistent money trouble is someone who may be tempted to sell out their employer, or steal from them. A legitimate concern when there are state secrets or peoples' bank accounts involved. Less worrying if the only secret you know is how to get the shake machine unstuck.
The practice has been expanding in recent years. Bad credit can be a proxy for lack of conscientiousness or impulse control problems. It's become especially common for semiskilled positions in offices and so forth. And now that the unemployment rate is higher, it seems that employers are using this tool more than ever.
It's hard to argue that someone having his wages garnished and being hounded by debt collectors isn't more likely to steal. Still. Having bad credit can be a proxy for things other than inherent irresponsibility, like poverty, frequent moves, or a run of bad luck. And of course, these days, it may simply be an indicator of stupid homebuying decisions, or losing your job in a particularly nasty recession. Those are precisely the people we'd like to get into stable employment. The Times article is inherently anecdotal, and thus suspicious, but it's not really very hard to imagine that employers inundated with resumes are glad to have one more means to shrink the queue--and are thus not very worried about separating the chronic check-kiter from the poor bastard who made the mistake of working in construction.
One could argue that a discriminating employer might do well by finding the people who hit a string of bad luck, and are therefore desperate for a good job. I don't know if it would be true, but it would certainly be interesting to find out.