Discrimination against Unemployed Job Seekers Soon to be Illegal?

A study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found 150 job advertisements on the top four most used job search sites that specified that an applicant must be currently employed as a prerequisite to apply for the advertised jobs. Among those 150 ads, 125 identified specific companies by name. “This perverse catch-22 is deepening our unemployment crises by arbitrarily foreclosing job opportunities to many who are otherwise qualified for them”, states the NELP study.

Even several universities, which one might think to be more understanding, were found to use this kind of language, including some of the most famous ones in the country.

“I was absolutely stunned when I was told this by a recruiter” said Michelle Chesney-Offutt, an 53 year-old IT help-desk supervisor who suddenly found herself laid off after 19 years of work. Despite an initially positive response, Michelle was told by the recruiting company that she would not be considered for an interview due to the ‘over 6 months unemployed’ policy that his client adhered to.

Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) just introduced Tuesday a piece of legislation, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, H.R. 2501, that would make discriminating against the jobless illegal. It would keep both employers and recruiters from refusing to consider unemployed workers for available positions and would prevent them from including language in any job postings indicating that the unemployed should not apply.

The bill seeks to protect the more than 6 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. “Discrimination against the unemployed–especially the long-term unemployed–in jobs ads and hiring practices flies in the face of what we stand for as a nation: ‘Equal opportunity for all’ said Rep. Johnson in a statement.