As Economy Adds Jobs, Employers Must Not Take Advantage of New Workers

Although the economic recovery is proceeding at a frustrating pace, it is proceeding.

The current economic environment is sometimes described as a “jobless recovery,” although Matt Yglesias argues that “there is no such thing”—instead, job growth is slow because this recovery is “unusually slow in terms of GDP growth as well.” Most of the recent news is mixed: unemployment rose slightly in January, from 7.8%.to 7.9%; on the other hand, in late January, weekly unemployment claims fell to a five-year low.

Macroeconomic debate aside, people are going back to work. As the New York Times reported, “Job growth accelerated at the end of 2012 and was even faster than originally estimated.” In January, 157,000 jobs were added.

As people return to work, it is crucial to remain vigilant against employment discrimination and harassment. Since the recession, workers have endured painfully long stretches of unemployment. Perversely, the very fact of being unemployed makes it more difficult to be hired. A new study out of UCLA confirms that grim reality—joblessness acquires a stigma after as little as a month:

In one study, Ho and his team asked 47 experienced HR professionals to review resumes that were identical except for one detail: Half said the candidate was currently employed, and half said the person had been out of work for a month. The “currently employed” candidate received better marks for competence and hireability.

In another experiment, researchers asked a group of students to review identical resumes from “employed” and “unemployed” job candidates, with the latter group divided between people who’d left their jobs voluntary and people who’d been let go. The “laid off” crowd fared no better than the quitters.

More eye-opening, albeit lacking academic rigor: a survey released in September by a recruiting software company found that “people who have criminal records but are holding down a job have an easier time impressing hiring managers than do people who have been out of work for two years or more.”

Sadly, hiring discrimination against the unemployed is legal everywhere except Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.. Encouragingly, the New York City Council voted to outlaw the practice last month, although the measure will need to overcome the veto Mayor Bloomberg has promised.

Unemployment is self-reinforcing: being jobless makes you less employable. The Congressional Budget Office says that unemployment itself, by way of “stigma and skill-erosion” has worsened overall unemployment “by a quarter of a percentage point since the start of the recession in December 2007.” There can be little doubt that the legality of unemployment discrimination worsens this viscous cycle. President Obama supports making it illegal, but Congress has failed to act.

The Harman Firm stands against all forms of employment discrimination. If an employer has mistreated you or your co-workers, our expert attorneys want to hear from you. Contact The Harman Firm today.