There's been lots of fuss about a recent article in AOL Jobs, Employer Explains Why He Won't Hire the Unemployed. Outrageous, people cry. That can't be legal!
Yet discrimination against the unemployed is indeed legal. Many companies consider unemployment to be a factor that automatically disqualifies applicants.
But it can't really be happening, can it? Yes. Unemployment discrimination is rampant. Whether unemployed for a few weeks or months or even years, employers think less of the unemployed. Some companies are even posting ads saying that the unemployed need not apply.
While a handful of states (New Jersey, Oregon, DC) have passed laws against unemployment discrimination, it's legal almost everywhere in the United States. Other states have tried to pass laws and failed or been vetoed.
But there ought to be a law!
Yes, there should. And President Obama has proposed the American Jobs Act, which has many provisions that will help put Americans back to work. Included in that law is a prohibition against discriminating against the unemployed.
What do you do in the meantime?
Unemployment is having a disparate impact on older workers and minorities. If you're facing discrimination due to being unemployed and you're over 40, a minority, disabled, pregnant, or in some other category that is disproportionately unemployed, you might want to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC and explain that the company's policy has a disparate impact on people in your category (age, race, national origin, etc.).
Don't forget to tell your member of Congress to support the American Jobs Act if you think this type of discrimination should be illegal. And, of course, don't forget to vote in November. The choice is clear on which candidates support workers, and which support the 1% "job creators." I'll stick with supporting workers any day.
Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly.