As the struggling economy pushes this issue to the forefront, employers should consider the following “best practices” when hiring from a job pool containing so many unemployed applicants:
- Employers in New Jersey must make sure their job advertisements conform to the new law.
- Employers in other states (such as New York and Michigan) should stay abreast of any proposed legislation on this topic. Employers should also stay current with the EEOC’s position on unemployment discrimination. Of course, we will provide our clients and friends with timely updates on this topic.
- Check with legal counsel to ensure your hiring policies and practices do not have a disparate impact on members of a protected class. The EEOC has clearly begun focusing more on disparate impact cases, as they allow the EEOC to remedy discrimination affecting large numbers of employees. Other problematic policies and practices sure to gain the EEOC’s attention include blanket policies against hiring applicants with criminal histories and/or credit problems.
- Look at the “big picture.” Be mindful of the fact that poor performers were not the only ones affected by the economy. Focus less on screening out the unemployed and more on whether job applicants display the skills directly applicable to the job, whether the job applicant seems like a good fit for the company, the job applicant’s professionalism, etc. Also, consider what unemployed applicants are doing to stay current in their field. Are they taking relevant educational courses? Are they volunteering?
- Consider the publicity such a policy/practice would bring to your company. Do you want to be known as the company that won’t hire the unemployed during a down economy?