Unemployment discrimination affects millions of unemployed job applicants everyday. Read below for more information about current laws protecting the unemployed.
1. What is unemployment discrimination?
Unemployment discrimination occurs when an employer refuses to consider or offer employment to unemployed individuals. Employers, recruiters, and others who screen out the unemployed from the hiring process are committing unemployment discrimination. Many employers have argued that there are valid reasons to not consider the unemployed for job positions. For example, long gaps in an individual’s work history may indicate that the job seeker is no longer up-to-date on new developments in the field.
Unemployment discrimination is a very real problem that affects millions of capable, out-of-work individuals. If you are unemployed, stay connected to your profession by taking classes, volunteering, and networking with industry contacts. You’ll want to do this to fill long gaps in your employment history.
2. How serious is the problem of unemployment discrimination?
It is very serious. A stigma persists that unemployed and laid-off workers are to blame for their situation, perhaps due to poor work ethic or bad personalities. Because of this, studies show that some employers have begun discriminating against unemployed and laid-off workers when they apply for work. Research indicates that applicants who had been unemployed for just one month were seen as less hirable to HR professionals. This bias worsens the longer an individual is out of work.
3. Are there any laws that protect the unemployed from discrimination?
Currently, there are no federal laws that protect against unemployment discrimination on the basis of a worker's unemployment status. Under current anti-discrimination laws the unemployed are not a protected class, so unemployed individuals do not have standing to use certain discrimination statutes. The American Jobs Act proposed by President Obama in 2011 would have prohibited unemployment discrimination, but did not pass in the Senate. To date, no similar bills have made it past Congress.
At an EEOC hearing in February, 2011 on the issue of unemployment discrimination, several witnesses testified that excluding the unemployed could have a marked impact on the disabled, certain ethnic groups, older individuals, and women. Consult with an attorney or anti-discrimination agency to determine if the EEOC has taken further action on the issue of unemployment discrimination.
4. What state laws protect the unemployed from discrimination?
A dozen states have tried and failed to enact laws making some forms of unemployment discrimination illegal. Currently, these are the only states that have passed legislation protecting the unemployed:
- New Jersey: Employers are prohibited from publishing advertisements excluding the unemployed from applying.
- New York: Employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of employment status, which has become a protected class.
- Oregon: Employers are prohibited from publishing advertisements excluding the unemployed from applying.
Washington, D.C.: Employers are prohibited from publishing advertisements excluding the unemployed from applying and are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of employment status, which has become a protected class.
5. What counts as unemployment discrimination?
It is very difficult to prove that an employer has unlawfully discriminated against an unemployed individual in the hiring process, since the employer could have decided not to hire the person for a number of other reasons. Consult with an attorney or anti-discrimination agency for more information.