The decision to file for bankruptcy is a very personal and private decision. Many Georgians have wisely sought the advice of bankruptcy attorneys to help them make an informed decision on whether filing for bankruptcy is the best solution to their financial problems. Now, that being said, once a bankruptcy case is filed it is no longer personal nor private because bankruptcy cases are matters of public record. This means you’re your friends, family, or employer could look up your bankruptcy case.
Since it is relatively easy to find out if someone has filed for bankruptcy, many clients are concerned about the possibility of suffering discrimination in the future on account of their bankruptcy case.
Can the Government Discriminate Against Me?
The short answer is no: the federal, state, and your local/regional government cannot discriminate against you. In fact, it would be illegal for them to do so. For example, government agencies are prohibited from using a prior bankruptcy case as the reason for denying, suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew a permit, license, charter, or similar benefit. Indeed, judges have specifically ruled that government agencies cannot deny or cut off public benefits, evict a person from public housing, deny a driver’s license, or withhold a driver’s license.
Additionally, once all government-related debt has been paid, discharged, or otherwise settled by the bankruptcy court, any acts against you that stemmed from the debt must likewise come to an end. For instance, if your driver’s license was taken away because you couldn’t afford to pay a civil court judgment, your license must be reinstated once the judgment payment is discharged (or paid pursuant to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan).
Can a Private Enterprise Discriminate Against Me?
There is no short answer to this question because the non-discrimination requirements that a private enterprise must meet will vary based upon the specific scenario. For example, a private employer cannot fire you, reduce your salary, demote you, or otherwise punish you because of your bankruptcy filing – but they aren’t required to hire you either. Additionally, a private landlord may legally deny your rental application on account of your previous bankruptcy.
How Do People Find Out About Bankruptcies?
It is quite easy for potential landlords to find out about bankruptcy filings because the vast majority of them run credit checks as part of the rental application process. If you recently filed for bankruptcy, that case will show up on your credit report. You can’t request that the credit agency to remove the bankruptcy from your report, but you can take other steps to rebuild your credit. By doing so, you are in a better position to show your landlord that you can pay the rent on time.
An employer might learn about your bankruptcy if, before the case was filed, one of your creditors won a judgment against you to garnish your wages. In this scenario, your employer would receive official court notice of both the garnishment and the bankruptcy case. (Many clients are also worried about losing their security clearances if they file bankruptcy, but they don’t need to be – it is very rare for a bankruptcy case to hinder or jeopardize someone’s security clearance).
Bankruptcy carries long-lasting and serious consequences that a potential debtor must plan for and completely understand before filing a case. If you have questions about the bankruptcy process and what other debt relief options may be available to you, contact The Law Office of Michael West today at 404-913-1529 or fill out our contact form to speak to one of our bankruptcy attorneys about your case. We look forward to working with you!