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Dems Propose Ban on Hiring Discrimination Against the Unemployed

July 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One effect of the structural unemployment situation we are stuck in is that some employers have begun assuming that people who don’t have jobs must be bad workers and, therefore, shouldn’t be considered for hiring. Of course, that line of logic doesn’t comply with the facts of the situation. Since 2008, millions of people really have lost their jobs “through no fault of their own,” and the jobs market as a whole has shrunken. The U.S. economy is no longer accomodating the U.S. work force. Hence the stagnation in unemployment.

So, should Congress amend the labor laws to protect unemployed workers from hiring discrimination?

Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D, CT] and 30 other House Democrats introduced a bill to that effect last week, the “Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011.” Here’s how they make their case in the “findings” section of the bill’s text:

(a) Findings- Congress finds that denial of employment opportunities to individuals because they are or have been unemployed is discriminatory and burdens commerce by—

(1) reducing personal consumption and undermining economic stability and growth;

(2) squandering human capital essential to the Nation’s economic vibrancy and growth;

(3) increasing demands for State and Federal unemployment insurance benefits, reducing trust fund assets, and leading to higher payroll taxes for employers, cuts in benefits for jobless workers, or both;

(4) imposing additional burdens on publicly funded health and welfare programs; and

(5) depressing income, property, and other tax revenues that states, localities and the Federal Government rely on to support operations and institutions essential to commerce.

And here’s the proposal in a nutshell:

(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to prohibit consideration of an individual’s status as unemployed in screening for or filling positions except where a requirement related to employment status is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to successful performance in the job and to eliminate the burdens imposed on commerce by excluding such individuals from employment.

Specifically, it would make it illegal for employers and employment agencies to do things like…

  • consider unemployment status and history in making hiring decisions;
  • publish in job posting that unemployed workers can not apply; and
  • block unemployed people from accessing information about job openings.

The only time it would be lawful for an employer to consider the unemployment status or history of applicant is “where an individual’s employment in a similar or related job for a period of time reasonably proximate to the hiring of such individual is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to successful performance of the job that is being filled.” [link to text]

What do you think? Is it time for Congress to intervene on this issue? Or are there better ways to help unemployed people get back to work?

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