Unemployment Discrimination May Soon Be Illegal in New York

Yesterday the New York Times had a great piece about the job-search struggles of the unemployed. Such quests are made harder by the fact that being jobless is not only stigmatized, but unprotected under employment law: it is legal to fire or choose not to hire someone on the basis of their unemployment.

Hopefully, that is about to change in New York City. Per the Times:

New York City appears likely to adopt a law that would allow unsuccessful job applicants to sue businesses who they believe hold their unemployment status against them in making hiring decisions. The measure is widely seen as the toughest step yet in a flurry of recent efforts by the Obama administration and elected officials in at least 18 states, including New York, to help the long-term unemployed.

The proposed change provides a useful contrast between the current mayor and a top contender for the job: Mayor Bloomberg opposes the measure, while Christine Quinn, the City Council Speaker, supports it. She told the Times that unemployment discrimination was “the ultimate kick in the tuchis.”

The article features vivid case studies of several job-searching individuals, in addition to providing an overview of the prejudice against the jobless:

Though businesses are reluctant to acknowledge bias in their hiring practices, some human-resource managers and consultants say privately that unemployment can be a red flag on a résumé, signaling that a worker may have outdated skills, or may be a short-timer who is desperate enough to take any work now but will leave when something better comes along. The National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, reported that companies across the country often posted job notices explicitly excluding applicants who are unemployed.

Such discrimination against the unemployed is becoming more widespread as jobs are in short supply and employers can have their pick of applicants, according to labor and community leaders. They say it has created a blacklist of the unemployed, many of whom were laid off in recession-driven downsizing rather than because of performance issues.

In a small bit of good news, new jobless claims ticked down at the beginning of February, providing “more evidence that companies were no longer aggressively laying off workers.” Of course, it’s a sign of the sluggish state of the economic recovery that the absence of aggressive layoffs counts as an optimistic signal.

For more about unemployment discrimination and a more detailed look at the current economic environment, see our February 4 post.

The Harman Firm doggedly seeks compensation for employees who face discrimination. If you have any questions about workplace mistreatment, contact us today.