A provision in President Obama's job creation plan would ban discrimination against the unemployed.
The unemployed face many obstacles in trying to find work. There’s the maddening Catch-22 that says you can’t get into a union without a job, and you can’t get a job unless you’re a member of the union. But now the unemployed face the cruelest cut of all: Companies that will only consider job-seekers who already have a job. The unemployed, they say, need not apply.
“I have worked for several companies who will not consider a job candidate unless they are already employed,” a hiring professional who wished to remain anonymous told Millionaire Corner. “These firms strongly feel that companies don’t let go of their best people.” She personally believes this to be a short-sighted attitude. “Sometimes, the best people become too expensive or a company is downsizing and they are the last hired.”
While discriminating against the unemployed sounds illegal, it is, at present, not. They are not a protected class as are race, gender, age, disability and religion.
Nearly half of investors surveyed by Millionaire Corner in June expressed little confidence that the employment situation would improve within the year. The statistics bear them out. According to the Commerce Department, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was six million in August and accounted for nearly 43 percent of the unemployed. The problem is confounded for older workers (over 50), who must also contend with age discrimination.
“Excluding the unemployed is becoming business as usual,” Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, testified at an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing this year.
Companies contend that the long-unemployed are less desirable candidates because they might not be as qualified as someone active in the workforce. They might also be concerned that a worker's skills have diminished or not be as up-to-date on industry knowledge and trends.
President Obama said in a recent interview that discrimination against the unemployed was unfair and “makes absolutely no sense.” A ban against this practice is included in his jobs creation package in a provision modeled on proposed legislation sponsored by Democrats in the House of Representatives. The ban would not “preclude an employer or employment agency from considering an individual’s employment history or examining the reasons underlying an individual’s status as unemployed in assessing the individual’s ability to perform the job or otherwise making employment decisions about the individual.”
But it would ban discriminatory language in job ads. While workers could file claims with the Equal Opportunity Commission, there are concerns these accusations would be difficult to prove and create an avalanche of lawsuits.