Unemployment Discrimination – Trends

February 13, 2011

On February 16, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a public hearing to examine what many consider to be a growing trend of discrimination against unemployed job seekers. [The meeting transcript and additional information can be found on the EEOC’s website.] A recent article in The New York Times by Catherine Rampell entitled The Help-Wanted Sign Comes With a Frustrating Asterisk similarly highlights the growing number of employers who deny unemployed workers equal consideration for jobs because of their unemployment status.

While employers have always considered past employment history in making hiring decisions, some employers have begun explicitly excluding the unemployed from consideration in job advertisements (e.g., “only currently employed candidates will be considered,” “no unemployed candidates will be considered,” “no candidate unemployed for more than X months will be considered”).

So why have employers begun recruiting in this fashion?  Many employers assume the best candidates are likely those currently working.  Screening out the unemployed is also an easy way to sift through the unmanageable number of applicants who apply for each job opening. Employers that have such a practice or are considering implementing such a practice, however, should consider two issues: whether this practice is legal; and, assuming it is legal, whether this practice is good business.

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