Unbelievably, the United States, known for its many workplace anti-discrimination laws, does not currently have a law banning discrimination against being unemployed. According to a report recently released by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a Washington, DC advocacy group, they found nearly 150 ads from Careerbuilder, Monster, Indeed, and Craigslist that openly discriminated against potential candidates, asking them not to apply unless they were currently employed. Can you imagine? I was simply galled by this!
What if a Job Posting said Fat People Need Not Apply?!
The director of strategy and policy, Alan Charney, at USAction, a grassroots progressive coalition fighting against this practice, said, “Just as a company would not dare say ‘African Americans need not apply’ or ‘Jews need not apply,’ it is outrageous that any company in this day and age would explicitly ban unemployed workers from employment.”
Proposed Amendment to Anti-Discrimination Law
I have to agree. While no law will prevent this sort of discrimination from occurring covertly, it is really shocking there is no law on the books against it. There has recently been legislation, the Fair Employment Act of 2011, introduced in the House of Congress by Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Henry Johnson of Georgia, that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and prohibit employers and staffing agencies from refusing to consider unemployed applicants, but up until now, there has been nothing.
On the other side of the coin, Monster, who came under fierce criticism from USAction for running these sorts of ads, is challenged with earning revenues in a sluggish economy. If their third party advertisers want to discourage unemployed workers from applying for employment, why shouldn’t they be able to? Monster has asked USAction to stop singling them out. I get that this is not Monster’s or any other job board’s problem to start with. The question is, why are companies doing this?
So Many Applicants, So Little Time
I spoke with a recruiter I often collaborate with, and she suggested that the reason companies may not want a lot of unemployed applicants is that it can really clog the system, making it hard to find the ‘cream of the crop’. Even with today’s applicant tracking systems, sifting through candidates can be exceedingly time consuming and costly.
Companies figure that people who are unemployed for any length of time are not as desirable; but there are many reasons why people leave their jobs. I have known very qualified executive level candidates who decided to take a sabbatical for travel, family, education, or other personal reasons. ‘The unemployed are NOT the unemployable’.
As someone who works hard to help both employed and unemployed executives seek and obtain new jobs, the practice of discrimination against someone for not having a job seems crazy to me. Just because someone has been laid off or has left a company, it does not mean that their experience is any less valid than an employed person.
We can only hope the newly proposed law goes into effect soon. This practice is highly disturbing and really does not support good will or encourage the unemployed to pursue opportunities with vigor. I am left wondering what would happen if all of a sudden some of the people making these ridiculous policy decisions were found in a situation where they were unemployed. Would they still feel the same way? Me thinks NOT.