Senate Bill Introduced to Prohibit Discrimination Against Unemployed Job-seekers

End DiscriminationHiring policies that say applicants must “be currently employed” moved one step closer to being outlawed as legislation has now been introduced in the Senate that prohibits discrimination against unemployed job-seekers.

With a bill already introduced in the House, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 (S. 1471), sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, would bar employers and employment agencies from screening out or excluding job applicants solely because they are out of work. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that job listings excluding the unemployed continue to pop up by the hundreds around the country.

“As our economy continues to recover, the unemployment rate remains unacceptably high – and unfair hiring practices bar unemployed individuals from applying for open positions, further eroding the hopes of the 14 million Americans without jobs across the United States," Senator Blumenthal said when introducing the legislation.  "This bill will explicitly prohibit employers from engaging in discriminatory hiring and ensure that unemployed job seekers receive fair consideration for job openings, giving a much-needed boost to those in Connecticut and across the country who are struggling to find gainful employment during these difficult economic times.”

“Losing your job through no fault of your own should never disqualify you from finding a new job,” Senator Gillibrand said. “If we’re ever going to get our economy back on stable ground, we need to create more jobs for all Americans who are ready to work. This legislation would keep employers from discriminating against victims of this economic recession, and give all job seekers a fair chance at a paycheck so they can make ends meet and provide for their families.”

Said Senator Brown: “The best way to get our economy back on track is also the best way to reduce our deficit: putting people back to work.  There are millions of Americans who would rather be paying taxes than collecting unemployment insurance. Americans who work hard and play by the rules - but lose a job through no fault of their own – deserve a fair chance at the next one.”

The House bill (HR 2501) introduced recently by Representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Hank Johnson, Jr. of Georgia, now has 35 co-sponsors.  The new legislation in the Senate has been referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) noted in a statement that support is growing in Congress to end discrimination against unemployed job-seekers, even as employers continue to post job ads excluding unemployed workers.

“A snapshot sampling of recent online job postings disclosed a large number of ads explicitly limited to those who are ‘currently employed’,” said NELP Executive Director Christine Owens.  “This perverse catch-22 requires a worker to have a job in order to get a job, and it means highly qualified, experienced workers who want and need work can’t get past the starting gate in the application process simply because they lost their jobs through no fault of their own. As a business practice, this makes no sense, and as a way to rebuild the economy, it only debilitates workers, particularly the long-term unemployed.”

With the unemployment rate at 9.2 percent, nearly 6.3 million workers—over 44 percent of all unemployed—have been out of work for six months or longer.  At the same time, average spells of unemployment continue to creep steadily upward, reaching nearly 40 weeks, or over 9 months, in June.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 4.7 unemployed workers for every job opening, a ratio that has been above 4-to-1 for 29 consecutive months.  With so many out-of-work job-seekers and so few available openings, unemployed workers already face a tough job market.  But when employers exclude qualified applicants based only on employment status, the job of finding a job is even tougher.

It was unemployed workers writing to tell us their stories here at Unemployedworkers.org who first spurred action on this serious issue, prompting lawmakers to respond and garnering widespread media interest.  We have a special web page for workers to submit personal stories of discriminatory exclusion in hiring due to being unemployed.  If you have a specific experience, where you've been told you would not be considered for a job solely because of your joblessness submit your story here.

 

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