Unemployment discrimination affects millions of unemployed job applicants everyday. Read below for more information about current laws protecting the unemployed.
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. They have a stigma that there must be something wrong with an employee or they would have been “snapped up” by another employer. 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. Some sources even state that unemployment discrimination is as common as age discrimination. 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.
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. There is also a belief that the unemployed have lost their skills or that these skills are out-of-date. 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.
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, discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, sex/pregnancy, race/color, religion, genetic information, etc is prohibited; however, the unemployed are not a protected class, and therefore do not have standing to use certain discrimination statutes.The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2014 would have made it illegal to consider an applicant’s current or post unemployed status when screening for or filling jobs. It did not make it past Congress. 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. As of 2020 the EEOC has not taken further action on the issue of unemployment 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 and employment agencies are prohibited from publishing advertisements excluding the unemployed from applying and 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 and employment agencies 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.
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.
Prepare an honest and confident response that highlights the positives of your last employment and focuses on your achievements. You can also remind employers that there will be no counteroffer for another company and that you do not have to wait for a bonus, which can highlight your attractiveness as a candidate versus other candidates who are currently employed. If there was a problem at your previous company that led to the unemployment, put a positive spin on the problem and highlight what you learned.
You can fill in resume gaps by taking development courses, volunteer work, working for friends or temporary projects. Focus on building your network and attending professional events to make contacts.