EEOC Examines Employment Discrimination Towards The Unemployed

February 18, 2011

Unemployed people holding job searching signsAccording to the Los Angeles Times, more than six million Americans have been jobless for more than 27 weeks. However, for some it is not a lack of skill that has kept them unemployed; it is employers refusing to consider applicants who currently do not have jobs.

Reports of such discrimination started before the new year, but recently the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a hearing to determine whether the practice of not considering the unemployed for hiring was illegal, reported DailyFinance.

The Los Angeles Times reported that while most companies do not have a specific policy against the jobless, several examples of informal exclusion have been reported. For example, a Texas electronics company's online ad said that it would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason". Another ad for a restaurant manager in New Jersey specified that applicants must be currently employed. Some companies were very clear--a phone manufacturer's job listing said, "No Unemployed Candidates Will Be Considered At All."

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, told Bloomberg, "This is a practice that, regardless of its magnitude, adds to the difficulty that millions of unemployed workers are facing today in navigating the toughest job market any of us has ever experienced."

According to DailyFinance, Owens testified that the "No Unemployed Need Apply" phenomenon disproportionately affects two protected classes: nonwhite employees and workers over 40 years old, as both these groups tend to be unemployed at greater numbers for a much longer time. As Bloomberg pointed out, EEOC is concerned that minorities are being unfairly targeted--unemployment in January among African Americans was 15.7 percent and 11.9 percent for Hispanics. In comparison, unemployment among whites was 8 percent.

Experts on the other side, argued that the situation is much more complex. Helen Norton of the University of Colorado Law School noted that if an ad said unemployed need not apply, most unemployed individuals simply would not apply, which makes it difficult to measure discrimination.

Fernan R. Cepero, who spoke for the Society for Human Resource Management, added that skills for some occupations, such as IT and web design, change rapidly so being unemployed for a long period of time could be a legitimate concern to an employer.

However, regardless of an employer's reasoning, the Los Angeles Times noted, applicants who are passed over because of their unemployed status, continue to be unemployed, increasing the difficulty of finding a job.

"The use of an individual's current or recent unemployment status as a hiring selection device is a troubling development in the labor market," explained Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment of the National Women's Law Center, in a press release. Graves added that using such standards is a "negative counterweight" to government efforts to get people back to work.

According to Bloomberg, although concerned, the EEOC is currently not acting on the matter; however, commissioners may review if and how the agency should act.

Compiled by Staff


"Businesses are refocusing to hire the unemployed, commission told,", February 16, 2011, Alana Semuels

"Employers Rejecting Unemployed Job Applicants, U.S. Agency Told,", February 16, 2011, Stephanie Armour

"Out of Work? Out of Luck,", February 16, 2011

"Unemployed Need Not Apply: Is It Illegal to Refuse to Consider Hiring the Jobless?,", February 17, 2011, Abigail Field

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