You did not mention the state your spouse resides in, which may be significant based on that state's law. Accordingly, your spouse should consult with an attorney in the state she resides to learn if there are any laws protecting employee from being discharged because of derogatory entries on her credit report.
Credit report and employment
Employers in most states are allowed to get a credit report on job applicants, and may decline to hire a person because of their credit history. Employers hiring accountants and other people with access to money, (and the federal government for high-security jobs) rationalize that a person with a low credit score in general, or money troubles in particular, may be a tempted to steal from the employer as a form of debt relief.
Your question is interesting because your spouse is already an employee, presumably in good standing. Does the employer run credit checks as a matter of course on its employees? I have no way of knowing that because you did not mention the name of your spouse's employer in your message. For the sake of argument, let us say the employer does make credit checks on all employees on a regular basis. Let us say that an employee's credit report contains a new derogatory item, or a credit score that falls below the company's arbitrary threshold. Accordingly, the employer fires the employee. Is that cause for dismissal? The employee may argue the credit score has nothing to do with the employee's job performance. The employer may argue that credit worthiness is an indication of the employee's trustworthiness.
Now let us look at a hypothetical with the same facts I mentioned. However, let us say the employee's identity was stolen and is unaware that his or her credit score has plummeted and has no responsibility for the change. In this case, if the employer terminates the employee because of the change in credit score, the employee may have a cause of action against the employer.
Or let us change the facts slightly again. Let us say that the consumer credit reporting agency makes a mistake and places a derogatory mark on the employee's credit report that should actually appear on the employee's father's credit report. If the employee is terminated under these circumstances, can the employee sue the employer and the credit reporting agency? I would argue yes, the employee has causes of action against the employer for wrongful termination, breach of employment contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The employee would have a cause of action against the credit reporting agency for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation.
Obviously, I cannot answer your question because I do not work for the human resources department at your spouse's employer. However, if your spouse is terminated because of a change in her credit report only, your spouse should consult with an attorney in your state who specializes in employment issues, because the employer may not have acted in accordance with the laws in your spouse's state.
You wrote, "if we default on our credit cards can she lose her job..." If her maintaining a certain credit score is a condition of her keeping employment (which as I discussed is a dubious supposition), then do what you can to make your spouse a "credit life boat." Each person has their own credit score. There is no "marital credit score" or merger of credit scores when people marry. If you and your spouse have many joint credit accounts, there can be an alignment of credit scores as time passes. However, two spouses can live together for 10 years, share no accounts, and one spouse might have a 750 and the other a 420 depending on the behavior of each.
As you go through your present financial difficulty and this is possible, transfer the balances from joint accounts and the "life boat" spouse to the other spouse on his or her separate accounts. Let the non-life boat spouse default and enter into a debt resolution program or declare bankruptcy. If the joint accounts do not default, the life boat spouse will continue to maintain a high credit score.
When the financial difficulty for the household passes, one spouse will be left with a low score, and other a high score. If the household needs to refinance a mortgage or buy something unexpected on credit, the lifeboat spouse will shoulder that burden while the defaulting spouse's credit recovers.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.